The World’s First Speeding Ticket

August 3, 2023

speeding ticket

It’s never a good feeling to see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror, knowing you might be getting a speeding ticket. But how do you think the first person to receive one felt? It’s a safe bet he was very surprised.

The first speeding ticket issued to a motorist took place on January 28th, 1896, in Paddock Wood, Kent, in England. A constable spotted a fast driver named Walter Arnold speeding down the street. Since the constable didn’t have one of the early motorized vehicles, he had to give chase on his bike.

When the constable stopped Arnold after a five-mile chase, he cited him for speeding. Arnold had been going four times over the posted speed limit. While that sounds like a lot, the speed limit at the time was a blistering 2 mph. Arnold was fined a shilling for speeding at 8 mph. Arnold could have avoided the citation, however, since the law stated that a person could go over the 2 mph speed limit if they had someone else in front of them waving a red flag to alert anyone on the street of their breakneck speed. The speed limit was later changed that same year to 14 mph.

Interestingly, Arnold was one of the sons of the William Arnold & Sons company, which later became the Arnold Motor Carriage Company in 1896. They had acquired a license to build Benz automobiles in the United Kingdom in 1895, and Arnold was driving one of these automobiles at the time of his speeding infraction in 1896.

auto water arnold
The type of automobile that was driven by Walter Arnold, the 1896 Arnold Benz Motor Carriage.

The first ticket given in the U.S. happened a few years later than the one in England in 1899. A New York City taxicab driver named Jacob German was stopped on Lexington Street in Manhattan by a police officer on a bicycle for going 12 mph when the posted speed limit was 8 mph. He was lucky he hadn’t been stopped while taking a turn because the speed limit for that was 4 mph. German wasn’t just issued a citation and sent on his way, however, he was thrown in jail.

But these first speeding perpetrators weren’t believed to have been given a paper ticket for their infractions. That was believed to have taken place in 1904 in Dayton, Ohio, to a driver named Harry Myers. He too was cited for speeding at 12 mph and was issued what is believed to be the first paper ticket for speeding.

If those are possibly the slowest speeding drivers that have been issued a ticket, who were the fastest? In the United Kingdom, Timothy Brady was stopped for going 172 mph (276.8 km/h) in 2007 in Oxfordshire in his Porsche 911 Turbo. He was banned from driving for 3 years and spent 10 weeks in jail. But the fastest convicted speeder in that country was a motorcyclist named Daniel Hicks. He was clocked at 175 mph (281.6 km/h) in 2000 while on a Honda Fireblade motorcycle. He got six weeks in jail and a driving ban of two years.

But those examples may not be the fastest speeder recorded in the world since records of who may have gone faster have been difficult to come by. There are a few that have been chalked up to urban legends and have never been proven. One was said to have taken place in Texas when a Koenigseggs CCR, a Swedish sports car, was clocked at 242 mph in a 75-mph zone, but this was never confirmed. The highest speeding incident with the most evidence seems to have taken place in Minnesota in 2004 when a motorcyclist was clocked at 205 mph in a 65-mph zone. The rider was cited for not having a motorcycle license, reckless driving, and going over 140 mph in a 65-mph zone, but it was difficult for the officers to determine his exact speed.

Sources: MoneyWeek, BBC, Ohio History, USA Today, UK Daily Mail

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Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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