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Author Topic: Early Traffic Laws  (Read 737 times)

wxfree

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Early Traffic Laws
« on: July 17, 2017, 11:44:58 AM »

I recently noticed that the Texas legislature's web site has a link that leads to old bills.  The first thing I did was look up traffic laws.  Those are interesting both due to the topic of this forum and because traffic laws are generally the laws people have the most frequent obvious interaction with.  I specifically wanted to see the earliest version.  In 1917 the legislature established the Texas Highway Department.  They also passed House Bill 37.  The paragraph at the end of the bill states that there was currently no general law regulating motor vehicles, so this would be the first state law on the topic in Texas.

The beginning of the bill describes vehicle registration registration, number plates, and fees.  It then goes to the matter of equipment, including a "bell, gong, horn, whistle, or other device," as well as lights and brakes.  (I love the idea of a gong on a car.)  In the following list, consistent with the statutory language, the term "passing" means going past another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, while "overtaking" means going past a vehicle moving more slowly in the same direction.  Some of the interesting rules:

An overtaking vehicle passing on the left is required to make an audible signal.

When making a left turn, the driver is required to move the vehicle past the center of the intersection, passing that point to the right, before turning left.  (This has been changed.  Current laws says that a left turn should be made left of the center.  I assume this is to accommodate simultaneous left turns from the opposite direction.)

"In all passing and overtaking, such assistance shall be given by the occupants of each vehicle respectively to the others as the circumstances shall reasonably demand in order to obtain clearance and avoid accident."  (I'm not certain what that means.  I think it means not to stick your arms out the window when going by another vehicle.)

Reasonable precaution must be taken to prevent the frightening of horses ridden or drawing other vehicles nearby.

The idea of "slower traffic keep right" goes all the way back to the beginning.

Where curvature of the road prevents clear view for at least 100 yards, an audible signal is required by "gong or other adequate signaling device."

The first speed limit was "reasonable and proper" with absolute numerical limits of 25 in rural areas, 18 in built-up areas, 15 in the business district of a city or town with a population of less than 40,000 and 10 in the business district of a larger city.  (Today's speed limits are prima facie and can be altered by state and local authorities.)

The law that a person can't be jailed for speeding goes back to the beginning.  A notice to appear is required unless the driver demands to be taken before a judge forthwith.

You must slow to no faster than 15 when passing another vehicle.  (Remember this refers to passing a vehicle moving in the opposite direction.)

Finally, a judge may order a 30 day license suspension for any violation of traffic law, and a 60 day suspension is mandatory for a person who is charged with speeding 3 times within a 60 day period if that person is convicted of each charge, or who is arrested for and convicted of intoxicated driving twice within a 60 day period.  (Those two are slightly different.  For speeding, it means being caught 3 times within the period, if later convicted.  This is based on the dates of the offenses.  For intoxication it means being arrested and convicted twice within the period.  This seems to mean that the second conviction must be within 60 days of the arrest for the first offense in order for the provision to become effective.  This is just my interpretation of the statutory wording, and may not have been exactly how it was applied.)

Here's the link:
http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/sessionLaws/35-0/HB_37_CH_207.pdf

I think this is an interesting topic.  What were the early traffic laws in your state?  It would be interesting to know not only what they were, but how consistent they were with other states at the time.
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traffic light guy

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2017, 04:21:30 PM »

The traffic laws in PA haven't really changed
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6a

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2017, 07:14:40 PM »

In Ohio you're still supposed to "sound your horn" when overtaking another vehicle on a two lane road.
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bicyclehazard

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2017, 07:10:24 PM »

In the law practice of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson he litigates against a farmer in New York who illegally blocks a public road by building a fence across it. A portion of the case can be found on google books. This was before the United States existed. Jefferson thought public roads were such a good idea that he appointed George Washington as the first federal road commissioner. These laws that Washington created are still in effect.
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Scott5114

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 06:13:26 AM »

"In all passing and overtaking, such assistance shall be given by the occupants of each vehicle respectively to the others as the circumstances shall reasonably demand in order to obtain clearance and avoid accident."  (I'm not certain what that means.  I think it means not to stick your arms out the window when going by another vehicle.)

This is likely the origin of the practice, found in Texas but rarely elsewhere, of aiding someone who is passing you by pulling partially onto the shoulder if one is present. I don't know if it's still the law, but it is still common etiquette, at least.
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kphoger

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2017, 02:08:47 PM »

"In all passing and overtaking, such assistance shall be given by the occupants of each vehicle respectively to the others as the circumstances shall reasonably demand in order to obtain clearance and avoid accident."  (I'm not certain what that means.  I think it means not to stick your arms out the window when going by another vehicle.)

This is likely the origin of the practice, found in Texas but rarely elsewhere, of aiding someone who is passing you by pulling partially onto the shoulder if one is present. I don't know if it's still the law, but it is still common etiquette, at least.

It is still specifically allowed by Texas statute:

Quote from: Transportation Code — Title 7. Vehicles and Traffic — Subtitle C. Rules of the Road
Sec. 545.058.  DRIVING ON IMPROVED SHOULDER.  (a)  An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
(1)  to stop, stand, or park;
(2)  to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
(3)  to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4)  to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
(5)  to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6)  as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device;  or
(7)  to avoid a collision.
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Keep right except to pass.  Yes.  You.

wxfree

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2017, 03:31:36 PM »

"In all passing and overtaking, such assistance shall be given by the occupants of each vehicle respectively to the others as the circumstances shall reasonably demand in order to obtain clearance and avoid accident."  (I'm not certain what that means.  I think it means not to stick your arms out the window when going by another vehicle.)

This is likely the origin of the practice, found in Texas but rarely elsewhere, of aiding someone who is passing you by pulling partially onto the shoulder if one is present. I don't know if it's still the law, but it is still common etiquette, at least.

That's an interesting thought.  It says "occupants" rather than "drivers" so I'm not certain of the meaning.  As stated above, that practice is specifically authorized.  I've seen people go partially onto the shoulder, or all the way into a narrow shoulder, when passing would still require going over the yellow stripe.  That doesn't make sense to me, so I don't do it.  If you have to go over the center line, you may as well go all the way across it.  I get onto the shoulder only if it's wide enough to allow the passing vehicle to stay in its lane.
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kphoger

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Re: Early Traffic Laws
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2017, 03:41:07 PM »

"In all passing and overtaking, such assistance shall be given by the occupants of each vehicle respectively to the others as the circumstances shall reasonably demand in order to obtain clearance and avoid accident."  (I'm not certain what that means.  I think it means not to stick your arms out the window when going by another vehicle.)

This is likely the origin of the practice, found in Texas but rarely elsewhere, of aiding someone who is passing you by pulling partially onto the shoulder if one is present. I don't know if it's still the law, but it is still common etiquette, at least.

That's an interesting thought.  It says "occupants" rather than "drivers" so I'm not certain of the meaning.

I took the ordinance to mean you couldn't just force someone else off a narrow road or whatever, but that each person was responsible to avoid incident.

As stated above, that practice is specifically authorized.  I've seen people go partially onto the shoulder, or all the way into a narrow shoulder, when passing would still require going over the yellow stripe.  That doesn't make sense to me, so I don't do it.  If you have to go over the center line, you may as well go all the way across it.  I get onto the shoulder only if it's wide enough to allow the passing vehicle to stay in its lane.

Two things here.

(1)  My first encounter with this practice was in the late 1990s, heading east out of Goldsmith on TX-158.  We were in a Camry with bicycles on top (obviously tourists), and the truck in front of us was heavy-laden.  So the trucker rode the shoulder, and then three oncoming trucks in a row moved over onto their shoulder, allowing us to pass right down the center stripe.  So, in effect, they turned a two-lane highway into a three-lane highway.  This practice is very common in Mexico (which, you may have noticed, borders Texas), and some highways are even striped and signed for such there.  A full-width shoulder is not required for this to work—just enough to open up the center of the roadway for someone to drive down.

(2)  Only taking a piece of the left lane for passing means it's faster to move back into the right lane after completing your maneuver.  This means you spend less total time creating a potential hazard in the oncoming lane.  This is helpful when the gaps aren't really long enough for a full overtaking maneuver.
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Keep right except to pass.  Yes.  You.

 


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