Friday, July 2, 2010

A History of Speed Traps

Hi folks -- I am beginning to put together a list of possible term paper topics for my fall automobile and American life seminar, and one that list is "speed traps -- a history." I have been using the New York Times historical archives recently, and there appear a number of interesting entries on speed traps during the 1920s. For example, on October 22, 1921, the NYT reported in an article entitled "Accuses 20 Magistrates: Chicago Prosecutor Gets Evidence of Blackmailing Motorists in Outlying Towns," that 16 motorcycle cops were also involved. Some 1,000 witnesses were to appear before a Grand Jury, as they have charged that country officers "Take jewelry, tires, accessories and other valuables in lieu of bond or fines."

The AAA took a leading role during the 1920s in waging a war against speed traps responding to abuses as the following (NYT, Sept. 20, 1925, p.15):

"In one instance in North Carolina...court and speed trap were converted into a family institution. The father, as Justice of the Peace, holds the court, and the son as constable catches the motorists and hauls them before his father. The spoils are thus kept in the family and part of it is used to pay hired men for running the farm."

We shall see what one lucky UD students turns up on this topic this fall!

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