Monday, January 11, 2016

Before Jaywalking: Pedestrian Rights and a Dangerous Instrumentality in 1921

Looking south on Commercial from Court, 1913
This is googlebooks gold.

From the 1921 book, The Law of Automobiles, comes this great pre-jaywalking discussion of cars and people on foot.

It's seems very different.

The chapter on walking rings the central assumption:
Pedestrians and automobile drivers have, aside from statute or ordinance changing the rule, equal rights in the use of the public highways....

The person having the management of the automobile and the traveler on foot are both required to use such reasonable care as the circumstances of the case demand, and exercise of greater care on the part of each being required where there is an increase of danger.

The right of the plaintiff as a pedestrian to free and unobstructed passage also has not been abridged by modern conditions of travel. There is no law or principle of law, or of reason, which confines foot-passengers to particular crossings. Such a restriction would be very inconvenient and annoying. The street should be kept in such condition that foot-passengers may be able to cross, with a reasonable degree of safety, using proper care themselves, at any and all places.
The development of jaywalking laws in the 1920s changed all this.

§ 289. Duty of operator generally. The operator of an automobile is required to keep a careful and prudent look out for pedestrians in order to avoid colliding with them. This is true irrespective of the conduct or intentions of drivers of other vehicles. Where pedestrians may appear at any time in the highway the duty of the operator to watch for them is constant, and to look too late to avert an accident is to not look at all. He should never lose sight of the danger to which a pedestrian may be exposed by the operation of his machine, or the injury which may be inflicted by failure on his part to operate it with due regard for the safety of others....

The operation of an automobile upon the crowded streets of a city necessitates exceeding carefulness on the part of the operator. Moving quietly as it does, without the noise which accompanies the movements of a street car or other ordinary heavy vehicle, it is necessary that caution should be continuously exercised to avoid collisions with pedestrians unaware of its approach. The speed should be limited, warnings of approach given, and skill and care in its management so exercised as to anticipate such collisions as the nature of the machine and the locality might suggest as liable to occur in the absence of such precautions....

It is conceded on all hands that a motor vehicle is a dangerous instrumentality, and that its operation upon a public highway must be attended with great caution and prudence, especially with reference to pedestrians, as a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian would not endanger the vehicle but in all probability be destructive of the life or limbs of the pedestrian.
I would like to see a revival of the discussion of the "dangerous instrumentality" of cars!

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