Vroom Vroom! 4 Trivia Questions About Speed Limits in America

On November 28, 1995, President Bill Clinton signed a bill that ended the federal 55 mph speed limit. See if you can speed through these trivia questions about America’s love affair with the automobile...


What Was the First Speed Limit Enacted in the United States? # The first gasoline powered motor vehicle was invented by Karl Benz in 1885 with the first mass-produced vehicle made by Ford in 1908. Back in 1901, the state of Connecticut decided it was a good idea to pass laws to govern the speeds of motor vehicles. Motor vehicles in those days included such memorable cars as the 1901 Locomobile and 1901 Columbia Electric, companies that soon gave way to companies like Ford, Packard, and Oldsmobile. The new speed limits for motor vehicles in Connecticut were limited to 15 mph on rural roads and 12 mph in the cities. The first traffic codes that were comprehensive were introduced in New York City in 1903, including the requirement for license plates on vehicles.

Who Received the First Speeding Ticket in the United States? That singular honor goes to a man named Jacob German, a taxi driver in New York. The date was May 20, 1899, and German was zipping down the road at a shocking 12 mph in Manhattan along Lexington Street when he was stopped by a police officer patrolling on his bicycle. Mr. German was arrested and tossed in the clink at the station house on East 22nd Street for exceeding the speed limit by 4 mph.


Who Received the First Speeding Ticket in the World? # The first gas-powered automobile designed and built by John William Lambert in 1891. It is unclear whether this is the one that crashed. However, the United States does not hold the record for the first speeding ticket issued worldwide. That honor goes to a Walter Arnold of Kent, England, who was caught speeding on January 28, 1896. Mr. Arnold was cruising along at a shocking 8 mph in a 2 mph zone. He was fined one shilling for his reckless behavior behind the wheel.

What U.S. President Was Arrested for Speeding? Ulysses S. Grant was arrested near the corner of M and 13th Street in Washington, D.C. and charged with driving his team of horses too fast. The arresting officer, William West, apparently lectured the president on the dangers of speeding after having pulled the president's buggy over the day before. Grant's response was to apologize and say that he would obey the law. However, the president had a short memory, because the same police officer pulled him over the next day doing the same thing.

This time, in addition to the lecture, the officer took the president to the police station after having ordered the president to stop (which was ignored) and then chasing after the president to pull the team of horses over. Apparently, Grant did not take offense at being made to obey the law and was friends with the arresting officer after that.

What States Have the Highest and Lowest Speed Limits? Since the 55-mph speed limit was repealed toward the end of 1995, states have been given more leeway in setting speed limits. Many of them have increased speed limits to 70 or more on some stretches of highway. Texas State Highway 130, which is a toll road that goes from Seguin to the north side of Mustang Ridge, has the highest speed limit in the country at 85 mph. Texas not only has the highest speed on one road but the highest overall speed statewide if all three types of roads are taken into account with an average of 78.3 mph.A number of states have retained the 55 mph speed limit. Washington, D.C. still uses it, which isn’t surprising since traffic on interstates leading into and out of the city is frequently congested.  Alaska retained the 55 mph speed limit on urban interstates, along with Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

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