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Speed Limit

In 1886, Karl Benz drove his first automobile through the streets of Munich, Germany. He named his car the Mercedes Benz, after his daughter, Mercedes. The machine angered the citizens, because it was noisy and scared the children and horses. Pressured by the citizens, the local officials immediately established a speed limit for “horseless carriages” of 3.5 miles an hour in the city limits and 7 miles an hour outside. Benz knew he could never develop a market for his car and compete against horses if he had to creep along at those speeds, so he invited the mayor of the town for a ride. The mayor accepted.

Benz then arranged for a milkman to park his horse and wagon on a certain street and, as Benz and the mayor drove by, to whip up his old horse and pass them—and as he did so to give the German equivalent of the Bronx cheer. The plan worked. The mayor was furious and demanded that Benz overtake the milk wagon. Benz apologized but said that because of the ridiculous speed law he was not permitted to go any faster. Very soon after that the law was changed.

Bits and Pieces, April 1990, p. 2