1905: Speeding Is Dangerous

May 11, 1905

The automobile was very much the exception on American roads in 1905. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) 77,000 automobiles were registered across the *entire* United States, let alone in the Garden State. While that was a 43% increase over 1904, 77,000 cars in a country of roughly 84 million people seems almost insignificant. That changed substantially in coming years. By 1915 over 3,300,000 cars were registered, a 42x increase from a decade earlier. But in 1905 automobiles were still a novelty. Nonetheless, public concern about these interlopers and those who operated them was already a hot topic of public discussion.

Witness a front page article from the May 11, 1905 issue of the Perth Amboy Evening News titled “Speeding Is Dangerous.” Mr. DeHart, a Freeholder from Middlesex County, was very concerned about speeding automobiles and he had an idea to stop them.

A plan he suggested was to have a mile measured off on the roads with men at either end. When an automobilist passes exceeding the speed limit and will not stop the man on one end could discharge a gun to signal the man at the other end to put a barrier in the road to stop the machine and arrest the violator.

It remains unclear how feasible this would have been in practice. Another county official, Auditor Pownall, had a much less complicated solution, one which only required following existing law without the necessity of using firearms.

…the law of the state provides that any citizen has the right to stop an automobile going at a rate exceeding twenty miles an hour and have the driver arrested. He said the law is very plain on this matter.

It is interesting to note both ideas end with the speeding driver arrested. If you have ever driven on the New Jersey Turnpike you may find such a solution still palatable. Of course, if it is a summertime weekend, you would be happy to even drive as fast as the speed limit!

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