You see them all the time when you are driving: speed limit signs. You probably assume they have been around as long as cars. But it turns out they are much older. June 27th marks the 368th anniversary since the first traffic law was passed. It took a while to get the familiar white sign for a 50 mile per hour speed zone, however. To understand how we got it, here is a brief history of speed limits.
The Dutch colony New Netherland had its capital city in New Amsterdam, which would later become downtown Manhattan. The citizens of New Amsterdam were obviously not driving cars in 1652. However, a few of these proto-New Yorkers were speeding by in horse-driven carriages that caused personal injury and property damage. So “in order to prevent accidents”:
“No wagons, carts, or sleighs shall be run, road or driven at a gallop with this city of New Amsterdam, that the drivers and conductors of wagons, carts and sleighs with this city shall not sit or stand on them but now henceforth within this city shall walk by the wagons, carts or sleighs and so take and lead the horses..”
Traffic laws continued to look like this in the American colonies on the eve of independence:
“No coach, slay, chair, chaise, or other carriage shall at such times, be driven at a greater rate than a foot pace.”
Motor vehicles with combustion engines took shape at the end of the 1800s and mass production started in the United States in 1900. Soon state laws began to regulate speed using more familiar language:
“No motor vehicle shall be run on any highway or public places outside the limits of a city at a speed to exceed fifteen miles an hour, and no such vehicle shall, on any highway or public place within the limits of any city, be run at a speed to exceed twelve miles an hour.”
In response to the oil crisis of 1973, the federal government passed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. It set the highest national speed limit at 55 miles an hour. If you swear you were legally doing 70 on the I-15 recently, that’s because this law was repealed in 1995.
Speed limits became clearer and more common as more cars filled the roads. However, 25% of traffic accidents are still caused by speeding.
Speed limits may not slow down every reckless driver, but Sam & Ash are here for you if you’re injured. We care about you and are available 24/7 to get you the help you deserve. Give us a call today for a free consultation at 702-820-1234.