On this day in 1901, Connecticut became the first state to pass a speed limit law. Motor vehicles were limited to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads.
There were already speed limits for non-motorized vehicles: In 1652, the colony of New Amsterdam issued a decree stating that “No wagons, carts or sleighs shall be run, rode or driven at a gallop.” The penalty? A fine starting at “two pounds Flemish” (about $150 in today’s currency).
In 1899, a New York City cabdriver was arrested for driving his electric taxi at 12 mph.
Connecticut’s 1901 law also required drivers to slow down upon approaching or passing horse-drawn vehicles, and come to a complete stop if necessary to avoid scaring the animals.
As late as 1930, a dozen states had no speed limit, while 28 states did not even require a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.
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