The Story of the World's First Speeding Ticket

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The next time you get pulled over for speeding, take a moment to reflect on cab driver Jacob German.

In 1899, German was making his living as a taxi driver, using a car invented by the Electric Vehicle Co. Though horse-powered cabs were still more common, at least 60 EVs were known to carry passengers throughout New York City at the turn of the century. 

A bicycle cop by the last name of Schuessler was on duty when he noticed such a car speeding down Lexington Avenue at breakneck speed. Schuessler sped up slightly on his bicycle to catch the culprit, then easily pulled him over to reprimand him. German had been driving a shocking 12 mph, significantly faster than the posted speed limit of 8 mph for straightaways and 4 mph around curves. For his reckless driving, German was thrown in jail at the East 22nd Street station house.

Ohio claims that it was the first to issue an actual speeding ticket, this one in 1904 to a gentleman who was, like German, also driving 12 mph. Here’s the distinction: Though German certainly paid for his blistering speed, there’s no evidence that he was actually given a physical ticket. Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio, received a written-out citation as evidence of his wrongdoing.