Tufty Fluffytail is RoSPA’s iconic red squirrel who was instrumental in helping millions of children to learn about road safety from the 1950s-1990s.
Created in 1953 by Elsie Mills MBE, who worked on child safety initiatives at RoSPA, Tufty helped to communicate simple safety messages to children across the UK.
In 1961, his influence was cemented through the formation of the Tufty Club – a nationwide network of local road safety groups for children. At its peak, there were 24,500 registered Tufty Clubs, with membership passing two million children in 1972.
Although focusing on road safety education, Tufty and his Furryfolk friends, including Policeman Badger, Willy Weasel, Minnie Mole and Mrs Owl, also made forays into other areas of child safety, including home and water safety.
Story books, TV fillers (some voiced by Bernard Cribbins), comics, board games, handkerchiefs, jigsaw puzzles, stickers, colouring books, Christmas cards, soft toys, ceramic figures, puppets, toothbrushes, mealtime sets, knitting patterns, nightwear fabric and song sheets were among the items that helped to maintain Tufty’s profile.
Tufty’s image was changed to keep up with the times in 1979 and again in 1993, before new methods of helping children to learn about road safety came to the fore. In 2007, Tufty once again rose to national prominence when he made a guest appearance in the cult BBC series Life on Mars.
Reproductions of vintage Tufty posters are available at https://www.rospaprints.com and Tufty artwork also features in Safety First, a beautiful coffee-table book by Paul Rennie. More information is available on our vintage safety posters webpage.
The history of the Tufty Club
Tufty Fluffytail created.
The Tufty Club for under-fives was launched. More than 30,000 books about road safety were issued to parents.
More than 60,000 children joined the Tufty Club, which was expanded to include older children.
The Tufty Club was featured in a scene in Cyril Fletcher's Christmas pantomime.
There were now more than 2,000 Tufty Clubs.
Tufty Club membership passed two million.
The Transport and Road Research Laboratory reported favourably on the value of the Tufty Club, which now had 10,000 affiliated clubs.
HRH Princess Michael of Kent became the president of the Tufty Club, and Tufty’s image was updated.
The Tufty Club celebrated its 21st birthday with a national roadshow.
Comedian Ted Rogers invited Tufty to appear in pantomime in Bournemouth to pass on road safety tips to his young audience.
Tufty was re-styled and modernised to bring him into the 1990s.
Tufty went on a nationwide tour.
Tufty featured in the BBC’s Life on Mars, when DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister) donned a Tufty costume to escape detection when being sought for murder.
What is Tufty doing now?
While other methods of helping children to learn about road safety have now come to the fore, like many in his generation Tufty has not retired! In 2018, his image was incorporated on to RoSPA’s Keeping Kids Safe packs which are providing accident prevention tips and tools to help thousands of families with under-fives, and he was also the subject of some safety activities for children at an exhibition to mark RoSPA’s centenary in 2017.
RoSPA continues to champion pedestrian training for primary school children, believing that it is an important first step of a lifelong approach to road safety and because it can encourage active lifestyles which are good for health and wellbeing. In the national accident prevention strategy for England, which was launched in 2018, the importance of small-group training conducted in real-world environments and covering modern scenarios, like the potential for distraction by mobile devices, is highlighted. Among the strategy’s key recommendations is that children at Key Stages 1 and 2 should have opportunities to undertake pedestrian training, with a particular focus on promoting safe and active travel.
The “Tufty generation”
That Tufty reached the age of 65 in 2018 is poignant because over-65s are among the groups most at risk of being seriously injured in accidents, especially from falls in the home, and they are a key priority group in the national accident prevention strategy for England.
Among the strategy’s recommendations for the over-65s age group are: continued action on falls prevention; the development of local partnerships that address multiple safety, health and wellbeing issues such as fire safety, falls prevention and social isolation; and the promotion of self-assessment tools to enable older drivers to think about how they can drive safer for longer. Recognising the opportunities and challenges of an ageing workforce, RoSPA is also working with employers to promote sustainable working lives and some firms are beginning to develop carry-over programmes that take safety learning from the workplace into other parts of life, especially on falls prevention.
You can find out more about RoSPA’s work on older people’s safety at:
Tufty loves to receive messages from people who remember him. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I grew up loving you and your pals as a proud member of your club. I would love to pass on the fun to my nieces and nephews."
"In 1965, I appeared on stage aged seven with Cyril Fletcher, along with my school friends. I clearly remember being taught the Tufty Club song and also dancing on stage. I still have the original newspaper clipping somewhere safe! Does anyone have any memories of this or any other photos? Thanks for the memories."
"Both myself and my husband were members of The Tufty Club in the 1960s. Your road safety advice has remained with us."
"Thanks for teaching my dad road safety. Without Tufty, he wouldn't be here."
"Back in the 1970s I used to go around the playschools in Norfolk with my Tufty books reading to the 3 to 5 year olds. I gave each character a different voice and the children loved the stories with the message they portrayed. I am now a great grandmother twice over and still remember Tufty and his friends."