No Flashing Lights, But He Was Going Over the Speed Limit

May 20, 1899

The first known official speeding infraction in the United States involving a “horseless carriage” took place in New York City. Jacob German was driving an electric taxi for the Electric Vehicle Company when city policeman John Schuessler – riding a bicycle at the time — caught up with him. Schuessler had observed German speeding along Lexington Avenue in Manhattan at 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) per hour. (The speed limits at that time were eight miles, or 12.9 kilometers, per hour on straight-a-ways and four miles, or 6.4 kilometers, per hour when turning.)

Schuessler immediately arrested German and locked him up in the jail at the police station house on East 22nd Street. “German was surprised,” reported the next day’s edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “The company was notified and its members were surprised.”

There has been some speculation in the years since as to whether German’s infraction also earned him an actual speeding ticket, which would make him the first person in the United States to be given such a document. The first definitive case of a driver in the United States receiving a ticket for speeding in an automobile involved Harry Myers, who was cited in such a way in Dayton, Ohio, in 1904. Like German, Myers had been caught speeding at 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) per hour; unlike German, however, Myers was not arrested and thrown in jail.

For more information on Jacob German’s record-setting traffic violation, please check out https://gizmodo.com/on-this-day-in-1899-the-first-speeding-arrest-happened-1579044541 and http://mentalfloss.com/article/56824/date-first-ever-us-speeding-violation.

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