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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - First speed limits and early driving ordinances
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Roger Allen - photo by Special

    (Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the growth of roads and transportation in Georgia and Bulloch County beginning in 1807.)

    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.
    In order to encourage compliance, there were fines for those who ignored the new limits: depending on their speed, a fine of $5-$25 was assessed, and between 3 and 15 days of hard labor often were required as well.
    Dr. J. E. Donehoo set something of a record when his party left Savannah just as the Savannah and Statesboro Railroad train was pulling out. They arrived in Statesboro some 3 1/2 hours later, just as the same train was pulling into the depot.
    What had been a two-day trip by wagon could now be made in a half a day. In 1909, the Georgia Legislature attempted to pass a new “auto tax,” which would cost a car owner between $3 and $10 per year for their car. It failed by one vote.
    When they finally passed a vehicle tax (the newly created ad valorem tax), it had to be paid yearly. The car's license, however, was good for the entire life of the car.
    In order to appear fair, it also applied to other forms of transportation: one horse wagon was assessed $5, two horse wagons were assessed $15 and oxcarts were assessed $2.50. On Oct. 29, 1914, J. A. Brannen reported that there were more than 400 autos in all of Bulloch County.
    Not everybody was thrilled with these new contrivances: an 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 was now 8 mph, and 15 mph elsewhere; and 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 a law that all drivers were to keep to the side of the road — no one was to drive down the center of the road, taking it all up for themselves.    
    Furthermore, 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. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.