The automobile represented a new paradigm in transportation. Moving from horses to high-speed gas powered vehicles was a big change for society. There was no precedent and little to limit what could be done with the automobile. Driving regulations for automobiles have altered over time and in the beginning of the 20th century there were few regulations because there was no precedent for motor vehicles. Drivers, excited by their shiny new thousand pound speeding block of metal, would take to the road without any thought for the damage cars could cause. Although automobiles were a luxury “toy” in the early 1900s, playing around without an understanding of the power behind the wheel was the cause of numerous accidents and fatalities as automobile popularity increased. In the 21st century today we know how dangerous cars can be. However, at the turn of the 20th century the citizens were not aware. According to the accounts of several journalists during this time the number of laws regulating the automobiles was limited, however, as the years progressed beyond 1900, automobiles were given limits and penalties for pushing those limits.
Automobile accidents rose in conjunction with the expansion of new automobile recreation activities. Racing became a popular event at the turn of the 20th century however, that period of racing is not like modern times with special tracks and guardrails. 20th century racing was performed in the streets of towns and cities. Racing was unregulated and drew in as many spectators as it did speed demons behind the wheel. These races were known as “Automobile Scorching” and were an obvious danger to the public, leading to heavy protesting.1 In 1900 France, many citizens pushed for regulations when civilians were being injured. In Paris, horrible things like “an automobile dash[ing] at full speed into a wedding precession” were major headlines.1 Drivers were uninhibited to race through the streets, causing havoc wherever they traveled. No laws were in place to curb this behavior. The writer of “Automobile Scorching” wrote from the perspective of someone in the beginning of the automobile age and he claims to have witnessed auto scorching first hand. He mentions that the French government was beginning to regulate the auto racing and speed limits to decrease the number of street races and injuries due to them. He wrote this article to shed light on how dangerous street racing was. Using the word “scorching” brings a negative connotation. By giving a negative view on automobile racing, he is sending a message that actions need to be taken to limit the drivers of automobiles. Civilians in 1900 had never had access to a high-speed transportation unit that was owned and operated by the everyday person. Richard W. Kinney witnessed firsthand how dangerous the streets became following the widespread introduction of vehicles. Kinney was killed after dodging one careening car only to be hit by another.2 There was no notion of a speed limit in America and meanwhile, the French government had taken control of the street racing in France with the output of speeding regulations. Road racers were a danger, but even the typical driver could be a hazard to the public. Think of it as learning to ride a bike: the world had just removed the training wheels and drivers were still wobbling on their wheels. Fatalities due to automobiles were climbing and the public pushed the government to respond. Not only were the pedestrians within cities affected, but the farmers in rural areas were as well. The lack of regulation outside the cities allowed motorists to the put the pedal to the metal at will. The sounds and movements of the cars frightened the horses on farms. Automobiles in 1900 got exponentially louder as they went faster. The farmers complained, “The trouble was occasioned by men who were on the roads testing machines for speed rather than pleasure.”3 The French were ahead of the United States in...
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