Did those early cars turn some drivers into bad people, or did bad people just like to drive cars? It may also be a coincidence, but although there were probably fewer than a hundred automobiles in Sonoma County in 1906 (there were 41 the year before), drivers were involved in a disproportionate number of serious anti-social crimes.

Just a few weeks after a child molester lured girls into his automobile, here was Sonoma County's first hit and run. The rules at the time required drivers ("chauffeurs," in the parlance of the day) to be considerate of horse-drawn vehicles, yet "Autocar 720" sped past a buggy on the road to Sebastopol, making a swift getaway after the spooked horse threw a family out of their buggy.

The law also required cars to stop and wait for the horse to pass if given a hand signal, which was challenged the year before by Dr. Crocker, whose car hit a buggy carrying a family of five, seriously injuring a passenger. The Healdsburg doctor appealed the fine given to him for causing the accident, using a novel defense that speed limits and laws requiring him to take precautions around horses were unfair.

Mysterious Speedy Gas Wagon Bearing Above Number Wanted

If "Autocar 720" will call at Justice Simon Graham's court in Sebastopol its driver will hear something interesting if not entertaining. J. L. Mello is exceedingly anxious to see the outfit again. While driving with his wife and child along the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol road recently the noisy gas wagon came up behind them and the Mello horse did the airship act, The auto "shover" put on more hurry and disappeared in the gloaming, nor left one lingering smell of gas behind. The man, woman and child were thrown out of their vehicle into the road, all three sustaining bad bruises. Hence the desire to meet auto seven-twenty in the Gold Ridge city, ere it is worn out with continual illegal speeding along the public highway.

- Press Democrat, September 27, 1906


Newer Post Older Post Home