In 1910, there were several laws passed for the new autos coming into town. After attempting to get a 1 mph speed limit passed (which the autoists stated was too slow for their cars), the citizens were forced into a compromise of 6 mph in the business area and 15 mph throughout the rest of town.
There were fines for those who ignored the new limits: depending on their speed, a fine of $5-$25 was assessed, and between three and 15 days of hard labor was often required of the offenders as well.
What had been a two-day trip from Statesboro to Savannah by wagon could now be made in a car in just half a day. When the Georgia Legislature attempted to pass a new “auto tax” of between $3 and $10 per year for each car, it failed by one vote.
When the Georgia legislature finally passed a yearly vehicle (or ad valorem tax), it had to be paid yearly, a car’s license tag was good for the entire life of the car.
In order to appear fair, this new tax also applied to other forms of transportation: a one-horse-wagon was assessed $5, two-horse-wagons were assessed $15 and ox carts were assessed $2.50. On Oct. 29, 1914, J. A. Brannen reported that there were now more than 400 autos in all of Bulloch County.
Not everybody was thrilled with these new contrivances. One newspaper editorial reported “farmers found that the cost of keeping an automobile in repair and operation is more than the cost of keeping horses to perform the same tasks.”
By 1915, even more rules had been written: the speed in town in Statesboro was now 8 mph, and 15 mph elsewhere. It was declared that there was to be no “promiscuous use of horns for noise making” by car drivers.
Policemen stationed in the middle of major intersections chastised those drivers who failed to obey the new rules.
Furthermore, it was made clear that all drivers were to keep to their side of the road. Officers made sure that no longer could anyone freely drive down the center of the road, taking it all up for themselves.
Finally, it was decided that there was to be no driving on Sundays, as part of the war conservation efforts. Those who disobeyed this rule found their names published in the Statesboro paper.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.