Little Bits of History

Your License and Registration, Please

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2015
Sample speeding ticket

Sample speeding ticket

January 28, 1896: Walter Arnold gets a ticket. He is believed to be the first person to ever be given a ticket for speeding. He was fined for going 8 mph in town where the speed limit was 2 mph. He was fined one shilling plus costs. The first speed limit came from the United Kingdom’s Stage Carriage Act of 1832 where the idea was introduced that it was illegal to endanger the safety of a passenger or person by “furious driving”. No actual speed limit was set at that time. Then a series of Locomotive Acts were passed in 1861, 1865, and 1878 with the earliest of these introducing a top speed of 10 mph in the UK. This was reduced to 2 mph in towns and 4 mph in rural areas by the next act. The Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896 raised the limit to 14 mph which was estimated the speed at which a horse being driven “furiously” would travel.

Today, most countries have set maximums for traveling on their roads. Some have also set minimum speeds. Speed limits are posted via a traffic sign and are commonly set for various portions of roads by legislative bodies. Speeds are enforced by national or regional police. Today, the highest posted speed limit is 140 km/h (87 mph) for some roads in Poland and Bulgaria. Texas has a 40-mile long stretch of toll road with a limit of 85 mph (137 km/h). Some roads have no speed limit for certain classes of vehicles. The best known of these are Germany’s Autobahns. A German study found that the average speed on a 6-lane section of autobahn in free-flowing traffic was 142 km/h or 88 mph. There are some areas in other places in the world without posted limits, but because the roads are lower design, the speeds are also lower.

Speed limits are set in an attempt to cap traffic speed for a number of reasons. The most cited reasons are to improve traffic safety and reduce the number of traffic casualties from traffic collisions. The World Health Organization’s report, World report on road traffic injury prevention, identifies speed control as one of the best ways to reduce road casualties. The WHO estimates that there were 1.2 million people killed and 50 million injured on roads around the world in 2004. Another major reason for speed limits is environmental impact reductions. Vehicle noise, vibration, and emissions are lessened with lower speeds. Natural conditions of the roads are another reason for speed reduction as is done inside city limits.

There have been a number of studies showing that reductions in speed limits can reduce the number of traffic fatalities. Posting a lower speed limit doesn’t always make drivers drive at the new lower limit, but it does lower the average speed of all drivers. One of the first studies done in Sweden in 1990 showed that a reduction of 110 km/h to 90 km/h had speed lowered by 14 km/h and fatal crashes were reduced by 21%. Not all studies were this positive. In Australia in 1996, a report on speed decreases of 5-20 km/h showed no significant change as did the 1992 US study reporting on lowering speed limits by 5-15 mph. The WHO also reported (in 2002) that 22% of all injury related deaths were due to traffic accidents.

People spend so much time in their cars, and it’s a legal way to have fun by speeding a little bit or testing yourself a little bit, and you get to invest in your car. For some people, it becomes their baby. – Jordana Brewster

I think God’s going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding. – Steven Wright

I get speeding ticket like everybody else. If the restaurant is full I’m waiting in line like everybody else. – Mikhail Baryshnikov

Men are superior to women, for one thing they can urinate from a speeding car. – Will Durst

Also on this day: Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Serendipitous Find – In 1754, Horace Walpole coined a new word.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.
Challenged – In 1986, the Challenger exploded.
Yale Daily News – In 1878, the newspaper first saw print.

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I Feel the Need for Speed

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 20, 2011

Speed limit sign

May 20, 1899: New York City cab driver, Jacob German is arrested and jailed for speeding. His electric taxi was moving at the horrific rate of twelve miles per hour. This led to the first enactment of a speed limit for cars in the US. Connecticut passed a law in 1901 limiting speeds to 12 mph in the city and a much more lenient speed of 15 mph outside city limits. It was not the first speed limit in the New World. In 1652, New Amsterdam passed a law against wagons, carts, and sleighs being run, rode, or driven at a gallop. Drivers and conductors of wagons, carts, and sleighs within the city had to walk next to their vehicles and lead the horse, or be fined what would amount to about $150 today. Fines were doubled and tripled on subsequent infractions and restitution for damages was also enforced.

Up until 1973, speed limits were set by each state rather than for the country as a whole. Some states had limits as high as 75 mph with Kansas lowering to this speed from 80 mph. In 1973, there was an oil crisis when in October OPEC nations plus Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia declared an oil embargo. This was retaliation for the US’s resupply of the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur war. The embargo stayed in place until March 1974.

By the end of November 1973, the country was feeling the effects of a limited crude oil supply. President Nixon proposed a 50 mph national speed limit for cars while trucks and buses could speed along at 55 mph. He also wanted to ban ornamental lighting and gasoline sales on Sunday. Other measures were listed, as well. Truckers stated different speed limits for different vehicle types were not safe. Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act on January 2, 1974 and made it mandatory to lower limits to 55 mph if states wanted to receive federal funding for road repair.

The drop in speed limits were supposed to save gas during this crisis but were also supposed to saves lives as we all traveled at safer speeds. There was, according to one study, an 83% noncompliance rate with the new law. Speeding tickets were lucrative for the patrols monitoring the nation’s highways. Some states were less amenable to federal interference and while they lowered the speed limits, they did not enforce them. There were minimal fines unless one was ticketed for exceeding the speed limits than had been in place before the enactment of the Act. The law was repealed in 1995 with many states resuming their limits pre-1974, a few raising them, and few lowering them.

“A lot of cars are built to go faster than the speed limit allows, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal to do so.” – Wayne Dellinger

“I have never had an accident, but I really have to be cautious. I drive slower now, and I also watch the speed limit.” – Arlene Melton

“There’s already a law in place for speed limits, and that’s a safe operating speed. It (a speed limit) doesn’t solve a darn thing. We just knew it was a Band-Aid fix to a much larger problem.” – Jim Marsh

“The speed limit will be 22 miles per hour, day-to-day, and 28 (mph) for corporate outings and go-cart clubs. At 22 mph, you’ll think you’re flying.” – Dan Taylor

Also on this day:
Where’s … Waldo? – In 1570 the first modern atlas is published.
We Believe – In 325, the Council of Nicea opened.

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