Here’s the Really Strange History Behind Modern Traffic Laws

Imagine, if you will, a time when nearly everyone walked, rode on horseback or got where they were going by sitting in a horse-drawn carriage. Now imagine a newfangled motorized car whizzes by. It’s not hard to picture what would happen if carriage and car met, is it?

As the numbers of cars grew more plentiful in the early 1900s, it became clear laws were necessary to keep accidents to a minimum and safeguard the public.


“Traffic laws these days are in place to make sure bad drivers are censured and reduce the numbers of traffic injuries and deaths, but that wasn’t always the case.” — Alex Perdikis

Here’s the often odd and sometimes frightening story of how traffic laws came to be.

“Rules of the Road” is How Old?

William P. Eno is probably not on your list of admirable people of the past. But, he should be. Known as the father of traffic safety, Eno wrote the very first “Rules of the Road” back in 1903. Eno was instrumental in introducing many of the same laws still in use, including speed limits, pedestrian crosswalks, left passing lanes and stop signs.

As far-thinking as Eno was, he believed intersections would always require a police officer to guide traffic. And stop lights? Heaven forbid, they’ll never become mainstream. He also refrained from driving himself. Instead, he employed a chauffeur.

License Your Car, License to Drive

As soon as local government officials realized the numbers of horse-drawn wagon and car collisions was a problem, they began to pass laws to limit accidents. One of the first paths down the road to safety was vehicle registration. New York became the first state to require registration in 1901 and other states quickly followed.

Before the 1930s, learning to drive was somewhat of a mixed bag. Some people learned from the car dealer who sold them the car, others learned from family and friends and still others learned from local organizations such as the YMCA. Incredibly, states had no particular role in licensing drivers in those days. That began to change by the mid-1930s. By 1935 the majority of states issued licenses.

Your Driving Behavior

A driver’s behavior became a huge issue in the 1910s. Speeding, recklessness and drunken driving caused many a collision and not just a few fatalities. Pedestrians were particularly at risk.

To address the behavior problem, the National Safety Council was founded in 1913. The organization began compiling accident statistics. Increasing public awareness to promote responsible driving became its primary mission.

Local municipalities also took charge, enacting more stringent laws and increasing the numbers of traffic signals. Severe punishments for major violations, such as speeding and drunken driving, including heavy fines and prison sentences began.

Traffic Laws in the Motor City

Detroit’s relationships with cars varied greatly from that of New York City where most drivers were uniformed chauffeurs hired by wealthy employers. In Detroit, everyone was driving. In 1917 alone, there were 65,000 cars on Detroit and the surrounding area roads. Along with those high numbers came thousands of accidents. Of the 168 fatalities that year, the majority were of pedestrians.

It wasn’t uncommon for children as young as 11 to be the designated family driver. Light trucks making deliveries were often driven by 14-year-olds who were constantly badgered by the boss to drive faster and faster.

Out of the carnage, however, came a number of safety innovations. The first stop sign was used in Detroit in 1915 and Detroit became one of the first cities to use one-way streets to control traffic flow. Detroit was also the place where the first traffic lights were developed and used, probably much to the dismay of Mr. William P. Eno.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

These Amazing Classic Cars Actually Changed History

Everybody has a favorite, whether it’s one the earliest horseless carriages, a muscle car of the 70s or anything in between.

“What’s not to love? Novelty, nostalgia and history combine for a fascinating look into the story of the past and a glimpse toward the future.” — Alex Perdikis

In no particular order, here’s a look at some of the classic cars that changed history.

Preston Tucker’s 1948 Dream

The story of Preston Tucker and his 1948 Tucker Torpedo is as American as it gets. The Tucker was a true marvel at a time when most 1940s models were slightly updated versions of pre-war vehicles. The Tucker ’48 was built with safety features no one offered before, such as padded dash, reinforced passer cell and a third headlight that turned with the wheels.

The car went into production after a successful fundraising and public relations tour but the company only produced 51 cars before running out of money. Production was shut down when Tucker and other company execs were accused of fraud in what became a national scandal.

With only 51 Tucker ’48 models ever produced, the rare history-making Tucker ’48s left are now worth millions.

To the Future and Back with the Delorean

The “Back to the Future” films made the Delorean seem cool. A product from the mind of John Delorean, a former Pontiac exec, who wanted to make a futuristic sports car consumers could use for many years without trading it in on a new year’s model. Delorean opened a manufacturing plant in Dunmurry, Ireland and set to work.

Trouble soon began. Designers found the prototype’s stainless steel panels and gull wing doors were costly to manufacture. In addition, the DMC-12 became a nightmare to produce and suspension and electrical problems became common occurrences. Production of the Delorean stopped when a series of scandals rocked the company and Delorean himself.

The Cadillac for Presidents and Music Legends

What do President Eisenhower and Elvis Presley have in common? They both owned a Cadillac Eldorado. The first Eldorado made its appearance in 1953. By decade’s end, the updated design cost more than a Rolls-Royce and was thought of as one of the most elegant cars to grace the earth.

In the mid-1960s when luxury and economy swept the world, the two-door coupe became all the rage. The car was also innovative. It was only the second General Motors produced car with front-wheel drive.

Henry Ford’s Model T

Why is the Model T such an endearing piece of Americana? It wasn’t the first horseless carriage, after all. But it was the catalyst for the way cars are produced around the world today.

Before the Model T, cars were expensive and difficult to produce. The average working family in America couldn’t afford to buy one. Henry Ford had a long history of innovative ideas before the Model T came into production. But he realized that something had to change or cars would never become more than a novelty for the rich.

Ford came up with the factory production line where a car was built by passing through a linear set of manual operations. At the end of the line was a finished product. The production line meant cars were produced at a much faster rate and with far less expense. Mass production and sales of the Model T is where America’s love affair with the road began.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

How to Buy a Used Car Without the Worries

If you’re one of the millions looking to purchase a used car this year, you probably have lots of questions about the process. How can I buy a used car without getting ripped off? What should I look for? Do I need to make preparations before I start looking? Follow these tips to get ready to buy a used car and avoid getting ripped off in the process.

Money, Money, Money

Before you even look for a used car, determine how much money you have to work with.

“If you expect to take out a loan, your car payment shouldn’t exceed 20 percent of your take-home pay. If you’re already on a tight budget, shoot for a smaller payment.” — Alex Perdikis

And, don’t forget to work in insurance and maintenance costs in as well.

If you plan to purchase a used car from a private party or an out of warranty vehicle, have some funds set aside for unexpected repairs and to pay a mechanic to check the car before you purchase it.

Target Your Brands

Build a list of acceptable car models in your price range. Some brands, such as Toyota and Honda have a resale value higher than some Ford and Kia models. Use online tools to research, read reviews and compare prices.

Choose your required amenities ahead of time as well. Do you need a 4-door vehicle? Can you get by in a smaller car or do you need something to haul the kids’ soccer team?  Figuring out what to look for ahead of time keeps you from getting swept away in the “I love the way it looks” emotional buy.

Where to Buy?

You can find used cars all over —next door, your cousin Vinnie, used car lots, new car lots, print and online ads. You can even purchase cars through eBay. Where should you go?

Buying from a private party is the least expensive option. It’s also the riskiest. Used cars are sold “as is” unless the seller provides some type of promise to fix specific items after the purchase. Most private parties don’t do that.

Buying from a relative is sometimes an option. Think twice about doing it, though. There’s always the possibility that a used car could come between you and the family member. Before moving ahead, consider whether it’s worth the risk.

Car dealers usually have a variety of used cars with a couple of different options for you to choose from. If the car you’re looking at is less than 5 years old, consider a certified preowned (CPO) vehicle. Will a CPO cost more? Yes. But, a CPO is certified and warranted by the manufacturer, not just the dealership. You’ll have stronger protections with a CPO.

Many dealers offer their own or a third party warranty for purchase with a used car. Read any such warranties carefully before signing. Make sure you understand everything in the warranty and read the fine print about what’s covered, what’s not and the length of coverage.

Before you purchase from a private party or a vehicle that has no warranty, pay to have a trusted mechanic check the car out. In addition, get a vehicle history report before buying to make there are no unpleasant surprises in the vehicle’s past.

Stay within your budget, do your research and check the car thoroughly before you buy. That’s the best way to buy a used car and not live to regret it.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.