The horse-story of speed restrictions on the road

When you get on a familiar road, you probably already know what the posted speed limit is. And when you turn onto an unfamiliar roadway, looking for the speed limit sign is probably one of the first things you do.

There is no question that automobiles have increased in speed capabilities and safety designs throughout the years. But did you know that the first speed limit was not designed for motorized vehicles?

Horses had restrictions, too

Many of us who grew up accustomed to performance vehicles such as Ford Mustangs may tend to forget that before people had a family car for transportation, horses got them from point A to point B. With horse-drawn carriages taking over what was to become New York City, a speed limit was put into effect in 1652.

The law prohibited galloping by the horses pulling carts, wagons and sleighs throughout the city. It also instituted penalties for three same and similar offenses, which included:

· A financial penalty of $150 (in today’s currency) for the first ticket

· Doubled penalty for a second offense

· “Arbitrary correction,” along with potential damages, for a third offense

Although there were legal stipulations for the need for speed prior to the invention of motorized vehicles, laws continued to evolve as cars gained popularity.

Can you imagine if the maximum speed limit was 12 mph?

The original bill submitted to Connecticut’s General Assembly restricted motor vehicle speed to eight mph in the city and 12 mph while driving on country highways. However, the first speed limit put into law for motorized vehicles raised that limit to 12 mph within city limits and 15 mph elsewhere.

Those laws also required drivers to slow down while passing horse-drawn carriages. However, without a speedometer in their newfangled cars, it is hard to say precisely how fast people drove back in the day.

Today’s laws allow you to drive faster, but you still must be accountable

While there is a very low probability that you will face consequences for riding your horse too fast through any city in America at this point, some restrictions remain.

You still have to adhere to posted speed limits and pay close attention to those around you. While automobile manufacturers design vehicles with speed and performance in mind, respecting the safety of those with whom you share the road remains imperative.

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