Category Archives: History of Laws

The History of Driving Laws 1901-1960

Driving laws are now a huge part of keeping the roads safe. In the twenty-first century, there are laws and rules for every move we make behind the wheel. After all, car accidents top the death charts year after year. (See the top 10 worst driving states in America.)

From “no right turn on red” signs to speed limit signs and everything in between; there is a law for just about everything you can do in a vehicle. Check out sites like this one for more details on federal and state laws you may not be aware of.

I know I’m not the only one that has thought, “Who invented this law? It makes no sense.” If you’re with me, this article will show some of the oldest laws of the road and the history of where traffic laws were made and when they first became a part of our lives.

Sit back, keep your eyes on the road, and drive through the history of traffic laws. 

In the Beginning…

The old German engineer, Karl Benz, developed the first motor vehicles for the world in 1886. By doing so, he ushered in a change more drastic than the world has ever seen. Once automobiles were made and owned by not only the wealthiest of people but by many others, roads and traffic began to become an issue. 

To respond, in 1901, the state of Connecticut created the first statewide traffic laws. However, the laws only regulated vehicle speeds. The limits were 12 MPH on city streets and 15 MPH on country roads. (Quite primitive compared to our 75 MPH interstates). There were no other laws put into place. 

Before 1930, there were thousands of cars on the road creating what would be one of the most dangerous times America had ever seen. According to the Detroit News, the early traffic years of the twentieth-century were lawless. It was a bloody mess that resulted in thousands of deaths just within the city limits. 

Though there were now hundreds of thousands of cars flooding the streets of America, there were absolutely no street signs, street lights, road laws, traffic signals, brake lights, drunk driving laws, the list goes on. The streets were complete chaos. 

Traffic Laws

In 1930, the three-way traffic light was introduced across the entire United States. As a matter of fact, the traffic light has hardly changed in the eighty-plus years it has existed. In 1930 it consisted of the same “green means go, yellow means slow, and red means stop,” that it contains today. 

One of the biggest safety features and concerns of today’s vehicles is a seat-belt. You may be shocked to learn that the seat-belt was not developed until 1950! The 1950 Nash Airflyte was the first American made vehicle to contain safety-belts. Not even a year later, air-bags were also put into place, making what resembled the cars of the twenty-first century. 

Perhaps the most important moment in traffic law history, the Department of Transportation was born in 1966. Their mission was to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” 

This motto still rings true and is the reason our roads are safer than they have ever been. In a mere 30 years, the safety of roadways and interstates changed drastically thanks to traffic laws being implemented. 

History of Drunk Driving Laws

Though many safety hazards have been avoided since the implementation of thousands of road laws, drunk driving is still one of the main concerns for the Department of Transportation and the rest of the United States. According to the DOT, there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 48 minutes in 2017. 

In 1910, New York developed the first laws against driving after drinking. The punishment was a $1,000 fine and jail time. This began a revolution of trying to solve the problem that still persists today. 

In 1936, Robert Borkenstein invented what he called the “drunkometer”. Borkenstein’s invention was a balloon looking device that determined if a driver was drunk or not. The device needed to be more precise, so in 1953 Borkenstein created the “breathalyzer” that we know today. It began with a .15 BAC being the legal limit, but in 1960 was determined to be too high and was brought to the .08 BAC level the U.S. uses today. 

Drunk driving is still an issue, but laws will continue to get more and more strict. As of recently, there is now a “buzzed” driving limit of .05 BAC. With this law in effect, you can still be ticketed heavily even after drinking what may seem like a small amount of alcohol. 

History of Traffic Laws in Conclusion

Thanks to the traffic and driving laws that have been implemented since 1901, the road is now safer than ever. Since Karl Benz brought us the motor vehicle in 1886, the roads have changed dramatically. 

The DOT now keeps laws and rules up to date and will continue to do so in the future. The history of driving laws is a long one, but it is an important one in preserving the lives of thousands of people. 

Author Bio: Ethan Lichtenberg is a writer for He enjoys Edgar Allan Poe and sneaking off to the beach every chance he gets.

The Legal History of the Lawn

At one point in time, mowing the lawn and maintaining a landscape was a sign of wealth.

Now, the lawn is so ingrained in society that: not maintaining your lawn could lead to a fine, or even losing your home.

It gets even crazier, but some people claim adverse possession of others’ land, simply by maintaining it.

So what is the legal history of the lawn, and why do we have lawns?

Let’s find out…

Laws about lawns, the legal history of the lawn

The History of the Lawn

The theory for the original lawn is believed to stem back to the ancient African Savannah, where the people could see for far distances, with little visual obstruction.

With inspiration from the grasses of the African Savannah, the earliest written existence of the lawn comes from ancient Japan. Where the text called “Aatu-tei-kaiI” or “Sakuteiki” was written. This book covered the first known writing on the practices of sodding.

From this point, the legal history of lawns grew mostly in the dark, and we don’t see lawns on record again until the 12th century.

It wasn’t until the 12th century that we started to see the emergence of the lawn as we know it today. These lawns were maintained by scythe and grazing animals. It is believed that the lawn began as a sign of wealth, as most land surrounding homes was reserved for growing crops and food.

But, there are some legal theories that suggest that lawns were actually a method of owning a landscape through maintenance.

Here’s the deal, to understand the lawn, we have to take a look at the theory of “property rights”.

Lawn maintenance and property ownership

What are Property Rights?

As you may already know, property rights refer to:

” …any type of right to specific property whether it is personal or real property, tangible or intangible.”

-Blacks Law Dictionary 5th Edition. Page 1096

In the US, this includes the individuals right to private property. Whether that purpose is to hold, rent, or sell that property.

For the most part, property rights are pretty straight forward, and most of us have a general understanding of them.

However, by looking at the legal history lawns have played in society, we can begin to develop a deeper grasp of what it truly means to “own” property.

laws on lawns and their history

Locke, a philosopher and an original proponent of the scientific method of the 17th century, had a legal theory of his own. His theory reasoned that labor rights (or maintenance) of property could lead to property ownership.

Locke argued in support of individual property rights as natural rights. Following the argument the fruits of one’s labor are one’s own because one worked for it. Furthermore, the laborer must also hold a natural property right in the resource itself because exclusive ownership was immediately necessary for production.

Labor theory of property
owning a lawn through labor

How Far Back Does the Labor Theory of Property Go?

It is unlikely that Locke was the first to come up with the labor theory of property.

In fact, it would seem that if you look at the history of property of land ownership, it is a logical assumption that the original land became owned by those that worked the land.

“You own what you can maintain…”

-Unknown Origin

Though the history of property ownership through labor rights is largely undocumented, logically the idea is nothing new. Similar laws are still on the books to this day.

Laws about the history of the lawn

Adverse Possession Through Lawn Care

Though we don’t have a written historical record for land ownership through property maintenance, we do have laws today that stem from an unseen past.

It’s true, property ownership through mowing the lawn. It’s actually a thing!

At least in some states.

Similar to “squatter’s rights”, a person who maintains a lawn through mowing it for an allotted amount of time, can come to own the land!

According to the article by Home Steady, paying property tax may assist you in claiming adverse possession of the land you are maintaining.

laws about lawns

Losing Property For Failure to Mow the Lawn

This is crazy, but it goes even deeper.

Cities across America levy fines against homeowners that fail to mow or maintain their lawns.

Some cities, like those in Dunedin, Florida. Have gone as far as to foreclose and auction off properties when their owners refuse to maintain their lawns.

That’s right. Failure to keep your lawn maintained, and refusing to pay the fines, may result in your home being auctioned off. It seems that the laws about cutting grass are becoming more and more common.

But is this legal recourse just history reminding us of where lawns came from?

Legal History of the Lawn– What is the Bottom Line?

The legal history of lawn and property ownership has a surprisingly little documented history. We see through the legal theories of Locke, and even modern statutory laws, that the history of lawn care may have been much more important than we have yet recognized.

In an age where people need insurance for their landscaping to protect it from storms, it is needless to say the the history of the lawn, and the laws surrounding it, have come a long way!

I anticipate that one day we will uncover that maintaining lawns and property was indeed one of the original methods of land ‘ownership”. Though I have looked into the topic before, it seems that our written history does not recount this theory.

Only time will tell.

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