Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 458 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
HIGHWAY, a public road over which all persons have full right of way—walking, riding or driving. Such roads in England for the most part either are of immemorial antiquity or have been created under the authority of an act of parliament. But a private owner may create a highway at common law by dedicating the soil to the use of the public for that purpose; and the using of a road for a number of years, without interruption, will support the presumption that the soil has been so dedicated. At common law the parish is required to maintain all highways within its bounds; but by special custom the obligation may attach to a particular township or district, and in certain cases the owner of land is hound by the conditions of his holding to keep a highway in repair. Breach of the obligation is treated as a criminal offence, and is prosecuted by indictment. Bridges, on the other hand, and so much of the highway as is immediately connected with them, are as a general rule a charge on the county; and by 22 Henry VIII. c. 5 the obligation of the county is extended to 30o yds. of the highway on either side of the bridge. A bridge. like a highway, may be a burden on neighbouring land ratione teiu rae. Private owners so burdened may sometimes claim a special toll from passengers, called a " toll traverse." Extensive changes in the English law of highways have been to highway may be caused by encroachment, by interfering with the soil of the highway, by attracting crowds, by creating danger or inconvenience on or near the highway, by placing obstacles on the highway, by unreasonable user, by offences against decency and good order, &c. The use of locomotives, motor cars and other vehicles on high-ways is regulated by acts of 1861-1903. Formerly under the Turnpike Acts many of the more important highways were placed under the management of boards of commissioners or trustees. The trustees were required and empowered to maintain, repair and improve the roads committed to their charge, and the expenses of the trust were met by tolls levied on persons using the road. The various grounds of exemption from toll on turnpike roads were all of a public character, e.g. horses and carriages attending the sovereign or royal family, or used by soldiers or volunteers in uniform, were free from toll. In general horses and carriages used in agricultural work were free from toll. By the Highways and Locomotives Act of 1878 disturnpiked roads became " main roads." Ordinary highways might be declared to be " main roads," and " main roads " be reduced to the status of ordinary highways. In Scotland the highway system is regulated by the Roads and Bridges Act 1878 and amending acts. The management and maintenance of the highways and bridges is vested in county road trustees, viz. the commissioners of supply, certain elected trustees representing ratepayers in parishes and others. One of the consequences of the act was the abolition of tolls, statute-labour, causeway mail and other exactions for the maintenance of bridges and highways, and all turnpike roads became high-ways, and all highways became open to the public free of tolls and other exactions. The county is divided into districts under district committees, and county and district officers are appointed. The expenses of highway management in each district (or parish), together with a proportion of the general expenses of the act, are levied by the trustees by an assessment on the lands and heritages within the district (or parish). Highway, in the law of the states of the American Union, generally means a lawful public road, over which all citizens are allowed to pass and repass on foot, on horseback, in carriages and waggons. Sometimes it is held to be restricted to county roads as opposed to town-ways. In statutes dealing with offences connected with the highway, such as gaining, negligence of carriers, &c., " highway " includes navigable rivers. But in a statute punishing with death robbery on the highway, railways were held not to be included in the term. In one case it has been held that any way is a highway which has been used as such for fifty years. See Glen, Law Relating to Highways; Pratt, Law of Highways, Main Roads and Bridges.
End of Article: HIGHWAY

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.