January 28, 1896 – The first speeding ticket

In early 1896 the speed limit in London was a blazing 2 mph (3 km). With automobiles being so new, every motorist taking to the streets also had to have a flag waver walk in front of them to alert people a car was coming through. God forbid you scare the horses! So when Walter Arnold raced through the streets of Paddock Wood, Kent on this day in 1896 in his new machine at an astonishing 8 mph with no flag waver, bystanders were absolutely flabbergasted.

A local constable was quick to give chase in hopes of bringing this heinous crime to an end. The officer jumped on his bicycle and pedaled for 5 miles before catching the driver. Mr. Arnold’s terror through town would earn him a spot in the record books, for he was issued the world’s first recorded speeding ticket for an automobile. The penalty for such a crime? One shilling! 

The Arnold was based on the Benz Velo (pictured) CC BY-SA 3.0. Top: An Arnold-Benz, driven by Alfred Cornell, 1897.

 Mr. Arnold owned one of the first auto dealers and manufacturers in London. He built and sold Benz autos under license, using the name Arnold Motor Carriage. Later that year, the Locomotives Act raised the speed limit to a breathtaking 14 mph and removed the need for a flag waver. To celebrate, auto enthusiasts held a race from London to Brighton, notably named the “Emancipation Run.” Mr. Arnold participated, driving one of his own automobiles, but there’s no record on how fast he went!

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