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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government


The New York Times
December 12, 1909

Uniform State Motor Vehicle Law to be Pushed at Washington Convention.


Two Important Bills to be Introduced into Congress—A. A. A. Active in the Movement.

Uniformity in automobile laws is at last beginning to attract the attention it deserves throughout the country.  Scores of State associations and clubs have for some time recognized this necessity and have been working for its accomplishment in their respective States.  The Legislative Board of the American Automobile Association, which first advocated this policy of uniformity in automobile laws as a subject deserving of the same careful attention which for years has been given to many other legal questions widely recognized as urgently needing uniform legislation, is about to bring the matter more prominently before the country at large by the first National Legislative Convention, at Washington, D. C., Feb. 15, 16, and 17.  The purposes of this convention were clearly explained by Charles Thaddeus Terry, Chairman of the Legislative Board, at the recent annual meeting of the A. A. A. in New York City.  As a further evidence of the increasing interest in the importance of equitable automobile legislation, it is worthy of note that Mr. Terry has been invited by the officers of the National Civic Federation to speak before that body on this subject at the National Conference on Uniform Legislation, to be held in Washington Jan. 17, 18, and 19, just one month before the convention under the auspices of the National automobile body of the United States.

At this convention delegates from all the clubs in the National organization  have been requested to attend, and invitations have been extended to the Governors of all the States in the Union, inviting them to be present in person or by one or more officially accredited representatives.

The purpose of the convention is two-fold—first, to secure the passage in Congress of the Federal Motor Vehicle Registration bill, and second, to bring before the official delegates of the various States the necessity of enacting a uniform State motor vehicle law.

Uniformity in automobile legislation in the United States must be attained in these two directions.  The Federal Registration bill, which has been advocated persistently by the Legislative Board of the American Automobile Association for more than two years, seeks to permit inter-State travel of motor cars by a simple method of one registration through a National Registration Bureau, this regulation to be operative in all States, without the necessity of securing a special license to tour in a dozen or more States, as is now the prevailing system.

The National Registration bill was introduced into Congress last year, but owing to the tariff agitation it failed to obtain a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, to which it was referred.  The bill will be reintroduced into Congress at an early date.  A hearing will then be asked for, and it is the intention to have the hearing set for one of the days during which the convention will be in session, thus permitting all of the delegates to bring their arguments to bear for the reporting of the bill favorably into Congress.

"We believe," said Mr. Terry in his annual report before the American Automobile Association, "that there is no adequate answer to the expediency and the legality of the measure, except its prompt enactment into law, and any and every Congressman who seeks to evade the question or to attempt an argument in opposition should be met fairly and squarely by better arguments, and that is not difficult.  The full rights of automobilists have been too long ignored.  To a large extent it may be said that hostile automobile legislation on the statute books is there largely because we have ourselves been lax and indifferent about it.  We want, and must have, the same kind of work as has been done in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in every State in the Union."

In referring to the work accomplished since 1907 for a uniform state motor vehicle law, Mr. Terry said that the progress made thus far was highly encouraging.  In twenty-eight States, which he cited at considerable detail, some of the more important features of this state law have already been enacted.  Those States which now exempt non-residents from paying an additional registration fee, provided such motor users have complied with the law in their home States, are: New York, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.  In Massachusetts, Vermont and Pennsylvania, non-residents are exempt from registration and license fees for ten days; in Rhode Island for twenty days.

The registration fees, however, vary greatly.  In Nebraska and South Dakota the fee is $1; in Minnesota, $1.50; in Tennessee, Utah, Maine, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Florida, $2; in Oregon, Michigan and Maryland, $3; in Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Iowa, $5; in New Hampshire, $10; all these being a flat registration fee without regard to the horse-power of the machine.

The new Michigan law, enacted at the last session of the Legislature, is copied more nearly upon the plan of the A. A. A. Uniform Automobile State bill than that of any other State, demonstrating, says Mr. Terry, the effectiveness of the persistent efforts of some of our prominent members in the State of Michigan, to wit, particularly S. D. Waldon, Roy D. Chapin, William E. Metzger and others.  The statute prohibits local ordinances except in the matter of speed.

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