THE photo-archive at The Northern Echo never ceases to yield surprising finds – in this case, horrifically surprising. In fact, viewed from our world of airbags and from a dashboard where a modern car bleeps at its driver to warn them if they stray a few inches over the central line of a road, they are genuinely shocking.

Four of these pictures – the most brutal four – are 15 inch by 12 inch prints mounted on good quality card for display in an exhibition, which seems to have been put together in the mid to late 1960s to soberly inform drivers of what can happen when things go wrong. To ensure they got the message, the pictures are given titles like "Death Crash" and "Death on the Road".

The three others are prints that have been prepared for publication in the paper – a couple have the words "fatal accident" written on the back, while the third is unmarked although such is the way that the car has been ripped open, it is inconceivable that anyone could have survived.

These three come from a black day on the North-East roads in June 1968 when four people were killed over the course of an early summer weekend – the nice weather was blamed for enticing daytrippers onto the roads.

The pictures are all from the mid to late 1960s when there really was carnage on Britain's roads. The largest number of people killed was in 1941, when the blackouts drove the figure over the 9,000 mark, with another 50,000 being seriously injured.

When the streetlights came back on, the fatality rate fell to about 5,000 a year, but, with a growing number of cars doing increasing speeds, it gradually grew, peaking in 1966 at 7,985 – the highest peacetime number, about the time our pictures were taken.

The breath test was introduced in January 1966, with the roadside breathalyser coming into use in 1967, which must have helped reduce the numbers of deaths along with better technology in both vehicle and road manufacture.

Today, our roads are historically very safe – although 1,793 deaths is still a decent lower league football crowd and the 25,000 seriously injured would fill a moderate sized stadium. While our cars are more clever and more safety conscious, these pictures are a reminder of the forces at play on our roads.

Numbers killed on British roads

1930 7,305

1941 9,169

1950 5,012

1960 6,970

1966 7,985

1970 7,499

1980 5,953

1990 5,217

2000 3,409

2010 1,857

2017 1,793