Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Does Government Have the Right to Regulate Driving? 1914 and 1940

Editorial in the August 1940 issue of the Carolina Co-operator calls for regulation of automobile drivers. We expect drivers to have passed driving exams, to have insurance, and to follow traffic laws, but this wasn't always true. Drunk driving used to excuse someone from blame in an accident! And some thought any regulation or restriction of driving rights was unconstitutional. The following editorial points out the deadly consequences of automobile accident, and it is followed by a mention of a 1914 lawsuit before the North Carolina Supreme Court arguing that traffic restrictions (speed limits, etc.) in Asheville were unconstitutional.

We came across some figures a short time ago that gave us quite a jolt. In these days of large figures, figures aren’t always so impressive, but in substance these particular figures amounted to this:

Since 1776 the United States has been at war for a total of 15 years, but since 1925, a 15-year period of peace, more persons have been killed in automobile accidents in this country than were killed in our armies during 15 years of war.

Now North Carolina is notoriously famed for its high accident rate. That our accident rate is unduly high is determined by the fact that auto insurance rates in this State are considerably higher than those in most other states, and insurance rates, as you know, are necessarily based on accident rates.

It is also a fact that the requirements for an auto driver’s license in many other states are much more stringent than our own. There must be some cause for our high accident rate, one that exacts about three lives a day within the boundaries of North Carolina, and it seems reasonable that there must be some relation between our license requirements and our high fatality toll. This logic was confirmed, in our opinion, when we discussed the matter recently with an attorney who has handled many accident cases, and who told us that many of the accidents in our own state involve drivers who cannot even read or write more than their own names. These persons may legally operate an automobile under all conditions and yet they could not possibly read a warning sign, the simple rules of safe driving, or be familiar with the grave problem involved in highway crashes.

When we consider the fact that our own army and navy frequently invest more money in training a pilot than in building the plane he operates, it seems reasonable that we can continue to expect wholesale slaughter on our highways until we tighten the requirements for automobile operation.

“Constitutionality of Traffic Ordinances” from the Municipal Journal & Public Works, Volume 37, Dec. 10, 1914
Asheville, N.C.—Two citizens recently arrested charged with violation of the traffic ordinances will test the constitutionality of the city ordinance regulating traffic, carrying the cases in which they were the defendants in the Superior Court to the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The cases recently were appealed to the Superior Court from the police court.

No comments:

Post a Comment