We live in a society and time in which 327 million Americans own close to 273 million vehicles. For as long as any living person can remember, there have been automobiles roaming the streets, with plenty of traffic laws in place to help keep people safe. We take it for granted that in the United States, we drive on the right side of the road, with appropriate passing and no-passing areas, and long-understood driving patterns. However, it was not always so. Combing through old records tells us a thing or two about how vehicles and traffic laws slowly made their way into general society. It is especially interesting in the early years when you had not only motorized vehicles, but horses and other natural ways of locomotion on the same stretch of road. The shift in transportation modes led to many problems around the country, including Suwannee County.
In 1919, Live Oak City Marshal (equivalent to a police chief today) J. Kinkaid had to issue a statement to the citizens clarifying traffic ordinances recently put into place by the City of Live Oak:
“The traffic ordinance says vehicles of all kinds shall drive to the right, and park on the right side, same as automobiles. If you should drive on the wrong side and an accident should happen, due to wrong driving, then you are held wholly responsible under the law for damage to yourself, and the damage you do the other fellow, as well as for the violation of ordinance.
“Will ask everyone again to drive to the right in streets regardless of what you are driving.”
This was only five years after the first apparent speeding ticket in Live Oak. In a June 1914 Suwannee Democrat, it was noted:
“The first case of speeding to come before Mayor Hinely came up Wednesday morning when William Boynto…chauffeur who ran H. W. Taylor’s car into the corner of Harvard’s Emphorum (sic) last Thursday, was fined $25 and costs.”
Ah, to have observed Suwannee County street congestion in the early 1900s…
Different history next week!
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.