The Law and the Motor

Why the Future Will See a Complete Change in the Legal Viewpoint


The Law and the Motor

Why the Future Will See a Complete Change in the Legal Viewpoint


The Law and the Motor

Why the Future Will See a Complete Change in the Legal Viewpoint

INNOVATIONS and innovators receive cold welcomes in this world. The same people who are always seeking novelties and declaring, with an air of boredom, that the man was right who said there was nothing new under the sun are the very first to turn the eye of doubt and point the finger of suspicion at a new invention, or a new method of doing an old thing. Europe was by no means cordial to the idea that the earth was round. Men scoffed at the new-born steam engine, jeered at wireless, pooh-poohed the aeroplane, mocked at the proposal to build the C.P.R., and were loath to admit even the humble sewing machine into their world. And of all of them, scarcely one has had so difficult a reception on the part of the world at large, as the automobile. There are still people who cherish the ideal of a horse-drawn world and remember the days when a fast-trotting horse seemed the most thrilling means of locomotion to be found. True, people have gotten over the habit of telling the ancient joke about “the gasoline smell” ; the comic papers have almost mastered their mania for showing the farmer’s team dragging a perfectly ablebodied, but recalcitrant, motor out of the mud-hole. But the motor is still fighting to make itself understood in the streets of the world, still compelling the traffic squads and legislators to revise their methods, and still compelling mankind in general to “get a move on,” and adjust itself to the newer and better means of getting over the ground and doing business. The world is still adjusting itself to make room for the last newcomer, the automobile, in spite of the fact that thousands of cars are owned in Toronto alone, and to own a car is the dream of the average pedestrian, even while he growls under his breath, at having to escape one at an intersection.

A man might almost be lulled into thinking that the only consideration in buying a motor is price: the price to buy and the price to maintain. One might almost be tempted to suppose that having the requisite bank account was the only needful thing and that once one could meet the bills which the owning of a car is said to involve, the rest is easy. But it is not. On the contrary, so comparatively cheaply are motors made nowadays, and such a saving are they accounted to be in business, that “the price” is after

all not so important. Far more important are the responsibilities which the ownership and operation of a car involve. They are very great indeed ! One scarcely realizes them until, with bated breath and jaded eye, one wades through the statutes concerning motors, and sees how the motor-owner is hedged about with laws and injunctions. He must do this and he must not do that. Almost every possible contingency in traffic is thought of, and provided against elaborately until, getting married and raising infants is a simple, off-hand matter in comparison with owning a motor; and the process of collecting enough dollars from the reluctant cash register to pay for a car, is as simple as drawing breath, compared to guiding a six-cylinder, or even a little, low runabout, through the intricacies of the law.

Before ever there were tame horses, before there was any need for vehicles, beasts of burden, and roads, man led a more or less happy life. He lived beside or at the ends of bridle paths. The tracks which he made from his prehistoric cave or tent of skins to the nearest spring or to the place where the Druid priest made the sacrifices, or to his ladylove’s father’s abode—these were the first lines of land traffic ever seen. Seas and rivers and small boats were, of course, the next step, and the use of horses or oxen to draw vehicles on wheels, was a third. The paths of the first generation became the roads of the fourth generation (or it may have been the tenth generation) and the tribes had to adjust themselves accordingly. The foot-travelers, who formerly lorded it over the paths, had to make room for the drivers of rude wagons and the riders of wild chargers who now became part of the traffic. They had to be on the alert lest they fall un-

der the wheels of the ox-cart or be trampled by the feet of the horses. There became at once an aristocracy on the road, and a rank and file. The rank and file that went afoot did not love always the aristocracy on horseback or ox-cart, but since horse and ox-cart were tools of awakening civilization and developing commerce, they perforce remained the aristocracy of the road, and challenged the foot-passenger by thrift and industry to place himself in the class of horse-riders and ox-cart owners. Thus begun the first quarrel of the road and thus ended.

But then came the automobile! Does anyone ever stop to think what a long time elapsed between the first traffic development I have just mentioned and the greater development which the automobile signified? For centuries the cait— improved, of course, but still a cart—and the horse—better bred but still using four legs only—were supreme on the road. The bicycle had a sudden vogue and a sudden death and then—came the automobile, a clumsy, lumbering affair that rolled sullenly along, snorting and smoking and smelling, and frightening the countryside. And from the first, it had to fight or be fought for by its sponsors. Like the pedestrian-savages, who undoubtedly raised strong objections to having the horse and the ox-cart placed on the roads, so now the descendants of the first horse-owners and ox-cart drivers objected to the “horseless carriage,” and were backed up by the pedestrian who never did approve of any but the one mode of travel anyway. The horseless carriage ! What right had any carriage to be horseless? What right had any man to be able to sit on a fourwheeled affair, turn a lever or two and start to move off down the road? Why should such a mystery-propelled vehicle go faster than a horse? Why, indeed, should the horse be allowed to travel faster than a pedestrian? Sunday supplements printed pages of pictures and “leaded” articles to prove that the motor car was only a toy. It would never last. It was commercially impossible. People needn’t worry about it—the fad would soon die out, etc. How did they know? Because this man and that man gave out weighty interviews to prove it. “Right Honorable Joshua Smith thinks the horseless carriage is only a passing fancy!” “Prominent London horseman


says the horse will never be replaced!” etc. The automobile and its disciples had to begin their first fight, and they are still fighting, though in a different way.

The “horseless carriage” stayed on the streets and made fewer and fewer breakdowns. Presently men heard the new word “automobile” and women in polite society were curious to know whether one should pronounce it “automo-byle!” or “autoe-mobil” — and compromised on “auto,” which to-day is considered a decadent word and is replaced by the more elegant term “car.”

A survey of the motor laws of the various Provinces of Canada reveals the astonishing fact that the horse has had more consideration in the various Provincial statutes than most men receive. If it were necessary to prove that man loves his horse, it would only be needful to observe the means the Canadian legislator has taken to protect his equine friend from the evil ways of the motor car. It may be said that the law which bids a motor-driver stop his car and his engine on approaching a horse driven by a woman or a child is passed in the interests of the human freight behind the horse, and, no doubt, this has very much to do with it; but that the laws have been framed almost entirely with an eye to protecting the horse and the pedestrian, is undeniable. In most of the Provinces .a motor must stop on signal from the driver of a nervous horse—or a nervous .driver ! In Prince Edward Island, where until recently the use of motors was absolutely prohibited, it is still the law that .cars cannot be driven on the highway on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. In short, a car may be used only three days a week in that Province, and all because the horse is supreme. In British Columbia a motor-driver must not pass a funeral, or must turn up a sidestreet and get out of the way—lest the horses in the cortege be frightened, and lest the hurrying motor show, or seem to show, disrespect to the dead. In Toronto the motor-hearse has come into use and sad processions make the long journeys to outlying cemeteries in brief time. But this is the exception. The mere thought of a motor funeral is still repugnant to the great majority of Canadians.

The manner of considering automobile legislation is slowly, but surely, changing. The factors which have hitherto determined the making of the law are

being changed and added to. This is the beginning of possibly the last, and certainly the most important phase of the process by which the motor is becoming properly adjusted in the community. Already it has been recognized as indispensable. Men no longer venture to suppose. but that the horse as a commercial animal is doomed, except for very special sorts of labor. Yet there are still hampering laws •>n the automobile, laws which make the use of motors sometimes difficult and which thereby retard their introduction into other fields of usefulness which are still awaiting them.

If you obtain copies of the various laws of the nine Provinces of Canada, and even of the United States of America where the motor has made slightly greater headway, you will see that the majority of these laws have been the result of legislative guess-work. They seem to have been drawn with little or no scientific knowledge of the subject. Legislators seem to have said to themselves: “These automobiles are ticklish things. We’d better look out that they don’t go to killing off all the other traffic in the country.” So one Province says no motor shall travel at a greater rate of speed than twenty-five miles an hour, another says twenty miles an hour. Some limit the speed to “a reasonable and proper rate” and then go back on this magnanimity by specifying only one mile in four minutes as the maximum rate allowed. Some Provinces require that a motor carry one white lamp in front while others require two. Ontario says that a car must turn always to the right and overtake vehicles on the left, while British Columbia reverses the rule. Some require that the drivers of cars be all licensed, whether owners or not, while others would license only the chauffeurs.

One of the great desiderata in reg a r d to motor legislation is uniformity between the different Provinces. In the United States of America one of the great motor associations i s spending large sums of money just in order to wipe out the difference between the motor laws in one State and those in another. For example, a man motoring from New York to Boston —a very common run—is liable to get

into trouble unless he knows that there are certain things required in one State which are not required in the other. Knowing them he can avoid any infraction of the law, but be he in ignorance he is liable to be hailed before a magist rate and fined for some technical breach. I'o remove the discrepancies the Automobile Association is working hard and employing great lawyers to smooth out the laws of the various States. Discrepancies still remain, but they are fast being removed. Until they are all wiped out, the man who makes a tour covering a numoer of States has to be a sort of lawyer, with a knowledge of the fine points which distinguish one State’s laws from those of its neighbor.

With the completion of the great transCanadian highway which has been started in British Columbia and which is slowly crawling across the Rockies toward the plains and toward the East, there will be a great increase in transCanadian motor traffic. Rather, that traffic will begin : so far, it is hardly possible, much less a common thing to see a motor make a run from Halifax to Vancouver. But when the great highway is completed, when the Toronto business man can contemplate making an excursion in his own touring car from Toronto to the Rockies and even through the great hills to the Pacific coast, then will the need for uniform motor legislation between the Provinces, make itself felt. The completion of this road, and the wiping out of the differences between the laws of one Province and another will make the motor car a nationalizing influence in Canada, will help to bind one Province to the next and the ends to the middle. It is a consummation greatly to be desired.

But the new basis on which future motoring laws must be based, is important. When the last delivery horse is dead, when the farmer has given up ploughing with a team and is using gasoline tractors, when he no longer takes his grain to market behind Clydesdales, but on a motor truck—many of the existing motor laws will be almost worthless. There may still remain those who keep horses for the sheer love of the beautiful animals, and

who will ride them or drive them on the public highway, but the laws which now exist and which were made in contempla-

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The Law and the Motor

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tion of the fact that horses are still more common than motors, will have to be replaced by laws recognizing that the motor and the pedestrian are the chief users of the highways.

The great problem of motor regulation in the cities has been the pedestrian, the man on the sidewalk, who is likely to want to cross the street and thereby place himself in the path of motors, and the child playing at the curb, who is likely at any moment and without any notice to run out into the roadway. In order to protect these lives, the law has added to the restrictions on the motorist. Cars must not travel at a greater rate of speed than ten miles an hour, says one ordinance. Cars must not pass any street car—thus the Vancouver law—at a greater rate of speed than four miles per hour, and cars must stop!—when overtaking a street car going in the same general direction as the motor and which has stopped to discharge or to take on passengers.

Splendid laws are in force in almost all the Provinces making the penalty very severe for anyone found driving a motor while under the influence of liquor. In most Provinces no chauffeur is licensed

under the age of eighteen. Some of theselaws are excellent. Some should be madeeven more drastic—such as the law concerning the use of liquor by motor-drivers —but others are obviously futile.

This is where the Safety First movement has come to have such great significance. Laws restricting the speed of motors do very little good, but laws to encourage the teaching and practice of Safety First principles, are all important. The automobile has been invented in vain if it is to be forbidden to travel quickly. If it is to go no faster than— and sometimes not even as fast as—the horse, it might as well never have been introduced. The point is that the automobile is the sign of a quicker-moving age, an age when the efficiency of a man is doubled and trebled by the time-saving devices at his hand: the telephone, the dictating machine, the wireless—essentials to modern business. Without them no business man could hope to keep pace with his competitors. Yet the use of telephone, of dictating machine and of wireless was something that had to be learned just as the use of the automobile has to be learned. But the mistake which the public makes is in thinking that in order to use a motor one needs only to know how to start it and stop it. That is not the point. The owner of the motor is not the only man who gets its service. The motor is the servant of the whole community. It brings the doctor to the patient more quickly. It brings the groceries to your kitchen with greater speed. It brings the contractor to your door to give yon a tender on a job, in much less time than if he had not the motor. So to use a motor you do not necessarily have to own one, or rent one. Every citizen uses one in some way or another. Therefore, when it comes to crossing a street, or making one’s way through heavy traffic it behooves pedestrian and chauffeur alike to remember the accelerated speed of the day and to be careful accordingly. The motor legislation of the future will be based on the principle of “Stop! Look! and Listen!” applied to the man on the street, as well as to the man in the driver’s seat.

A DISTINGUISHED OFFICE Prince Alexander of Teck, who during his visit to Canada in the coming summer will command a cavalry brigade at the manoeuvres of the Canadian Militia, rose to the rank of captain in the 7th Hussars, and served with distinction both in Matabeleland and in the Transvaal campaign four years later. All the three sons of the late Duke of Teek have held commissions in the cavalry, the most brilliant soldier of the three, perhaps, being the second brother, the late Prince Francis, who, when attached to the Egyptian Army in the Soudan, won LordKitchener’s highest praise. All three brothers were thorough Englishmen and extremely popular, having inherited much of the charm, as well as the good looks, of their mother, who in her youth, was the handsomest and through life oneof the best-loved of English Royalties.