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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government


The New York Times
December 24, 1922

In a vigorous plea for a separate motor vehicle commission or department in this State to take charge of automobile registration and law enforcement, the Executive Committee of the New York State Automobile Association holds that the State is responsible for the loss of many lives by motor vehicles through its failure to exercise proper supervision over motor car operators. The committee's report, which was adopted at the recent convention in Geneva, points out that, reaching the age of 18 years, is practically all that is necessary to drive a car in any part of the State outside of the New York City limits.

"With the lack of qualification," it is said, "lack of observation and enforcement of even the present laws, the reckless and incompetent operation of automobiles has resulted in an annually increasing death toll which has grown to the shocking proportions of thousands of human lives, more thousands of person injured and property damage aggregating hundreds of thousands of dollars."

A remark of Commissioner Dill of New Jersey from his 1921 report is quoted on the subject of several fatal accidents in that State due to the carelessness of non-resident drivers, concluding by saying that "this danger will continue to prevail on our roads until such time as New York and Pennsylvania enact legislation that will give to the licensing authorities rigid control over the licensed driver."

As explained in The New York Times a short time ago, a bill has been drafted providing for a distinct automobile commission with a State-wide license law. The attitude of the New York State Automobile Association, of which Representative Peter G. Ten Eyck of Albany is President, is that it is "most essential in order to secure a proper respect for the motor vehicle law by enforcement of its provisions covering violations of every character. This never will be accomplished under the present system in which the administration is divided among three or four departments."

The report, expressive of the wishes of the members, also says:

"The motor vehicle situation in New York State undoubtedly requires a thoroughly organized distinctive department, because the functions are so extensive as to make it most desirable to segregate these functions from any other branch of the Government, and it should have at its head some efficient, independent man, an enthusiast, able to devote his entire knowledge and ability to the administration and be entirely free from political or other handicap.

"We would not care to make an estimate of any budget for such a department, but with the facts in hand—that during the present year the automobile owners of this State will have paid approximately $12,000,000 into the Tax Commission and under the new basis of calculating automobile fees, beginning Jan. 1, will pay between $15,000,000 and $16,000,000 to the tax commission for the year 1923—using the Highways Department's own figures as a basis of cost of maintenance of $1,000 per mile per annum, any reasonable cost of operating the department could undoubtedly be well taken care of without additional taxes being placed upon the automobile owners of this State.

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