January 28, 1896 – The first speeding ticket

In early 1896 the speed limit in London was a blazing 2 mph (3 km) and every motorist had to have a flag waver walk in front of them to alert people that an automobile 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 automobile at an astonishing 8 mph with no flag waver, a local constable was quick to take action. The officer jumped on his bicycle and gave chase for 5 miles before being able to stop 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

 Mr. Arnold was one of the first auto dealers and manufacturers in London, selling Benz autos and also building them 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. A race from London to Brighton called the “Emancipation Run” was conducted to celebrate the event. Mr. Arnold participated, driving one of his own automobiles.

Cover: Arnold-Benz, driven by Alfred Cornell, 1897.

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