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May 20, 1899 – The first speeding ticket in USA is issued

On this day in 1899, New York City taxicab driver Jacob German became the first person in the United States to be cited for speeding while driving an automobile. German drove a cab for Electric Vehicle Company, which leased its cars to be used as taxis in the bustling city. The car German drove was known as an Electrobat (example pictured above), a fully electric vehicle invented in 1894. About 60 of these cars operated as NYC taxis in 1899.

At the time, New York had speed limits for horses and cars of 8 miles per hour when traveling in a straight line. When cornering, drivers had to slow to at a max speed of 4 miles per hour. German was traveling an astonishing 12 miles per hour. It was so fast that the bicycle officer who pulled German over actually arrested and imprisoned him!

It is unclear if German received a written citation or not. Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio earned the first documented paper ticket in the US in 1904. He was also traveling a breakneck 12 miles per hour. The first known speeding ticket issued to an automobile driver in the world went to Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent on January 28, 1896. Police caught Arnold going 8 mph in a 2 mph zone, earning himself a fine of 1 shilling!

In the video above, shot by Thomas Edison in 1901, an Electrobat can be seen entering the screen at about the 30 second mark. He is obviously not traveling with the lightning speed of Mr. German.

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