1896 Arnold Benz Motor Carriage alleged to be first car to be caught speeding
This 1896 Arnold Benz Motor Carriage is largely held to be the very first car to receive a speeding ticket, and it’s headed for the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Palace Court in the United Kingdom.
The UK in the 19th century was a tough place to have an automobile. The law at the time required drivers to maintain a speed of no more than 2 mph and be proceeded by someone walking in front of the vehicle waving a red flag. For reference, that’s a little quicker than the average speed of an ambling cow.
It’s unclear whether Walter Arnold knew the rules when he came puttering through Paddock Green in Kent on January 28, 1896, but a constable spotted him greatly exceeding the speed limit, traveling at an estimated 8 mph. To make maters worse, no one was running ahead, waving a red flag. The officer happened to be on a bicycle at the time and managed to catch Arnold and write him a citatiton. He was later convicted of speeding and made to pay a lofty fine of a shilling “plus costs.”
It’s not all bad, though. The incident helped build awareness of the automobile, and the UK passed the Locomotives Act later that year, thereby raising the speed limit to a more functional 14 mph and abolishing the flag waver all together. Car owners celebrated by, what else, racing from London to Brighton in an event known as the Emancipation Run. Arnold and his Benz Motor Carriage were there.
It would take drivers in the United States another three years to earn their first speeding ticket. According to Gizmodo, that dubious honor goes to Jacob German in 1899. Even better? He was driving an electric car. German was 26 at the time, working for the Electric Vehicle Company, a firm that leased electric cabs. New York required all drivers to maintain a speed of no greater than 8 mph on streets and no more than 4 mph around corners. German was doing 12. Like Arnold, German was brought down by a patrolman on a bicycle.
Arnold’s Motor Carriage will be at this year’s Concours of Elegance at Hampton Palace Court, along with other quick hardware like a Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJ-9 and a Harrods liveried McLaren F1. Fast company. The public may view the cars on September 1, 2017.