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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  William Phelps Eno


The New York Times
December 5, 1909

Father of Our Traffic Regulations Tells of Precautions Taken in London and Paris.


He Would Give Them the Right to Issue Summonses for Men on Drivers' Seats.

William Phelps Eno, the father of the current traffic regulations in this city, returned yesterday on the Hamburg-American liner Amerika from a trip of observation to London and Paris.  Mr. Eno said that while he was convinced that our present traffic regulations are ahead of those in use in London and Paris, there was still much to be approved upon here.

The city authorities, he said were apparently reluctant to improve methods, and he pointed out that he had at his own expense printed 20,000 copies of the traffic regulation for distribution here.  He is confident, however, that improvement will come.

"In many respects," he said, "the traffic regulations are better here than in London.  In formulating the present regulations, I studied the London system, took what was good, and added what experience taught me would be an improvement.  For example, our regulations are better than those of London in the stopping of the cars at one corner, and not wherever they are hailed; the keeping of slow-moving vehicles close to the curb, and in not allowing teams to back or turn where it interferes with traffic.  London will soon adopt these improvements, especially that relating to the stopping of cars on the corner.

"The traffic regulations are well carried out in this city, though teamsters still disregard the public by stopping on cross walks where there are no traffic men on watch, and business firms allow teams to back upon the sidewalk to the obstruction of pedestrians.

"In London the driver obeys immediately the policeman.  In New York the driver is beginning to obey, and in Paris no attention is paid to the policeman.

"I agree with Police Commissioner Baker that our method of licensing chauffeurs is lax, and I am horrified at the number of persons who have been run down in this city.  I favor a more rigid examination and a better record of those holding licenses.  I hope in time to see improvements along this line.

"I have brought back with me a set of Government licenses used in Paris and London.

"In London the drivers of motor vehicles have to appear at Scotland Yard and prove their efficiency before they are licensed.  Private chauffeurs get tier licenses for a few shillings, but on the license are several leaves on which are entered the record of their arrest and conviction for offenses against the regulations.

"No chauffeur may alter this record or tear out a single leaf.  This method is effective, and police can get at a glance the record of the chauffeur by calling for his license.

"In Paris the photograph of the chauffeur is attached to the license, so that another cannot be substituted, and each license bears the signature of the man to whom it is issued.

"I believe the English system of keeping to the left of the road is the best.  I have never advocated it here as it would be revolutionary.  The advantages of keeping to the left are many.  The groom would then never have to run around the carriage to open the door and the driver could see the road better.  I would even like to see those on the sidewalk keep to the left.

"Some of the improvements which would be of benefit to this city would be to centralize the power by taking the granting of licenses from the Mayor's Marshal and giving it to the Bureau of Street Traffic; the giving to policemen the right of granting summonses and complaints so that a driver could be summoned to court without a wrangle or holding up traffic to 'fight it out'; the proper licensing of chauffeurs; making a chauffeur's license a National one, as good in San Francisco as in New York, and the reserving of narrow streets to one-way traffic.

"For example, on South, West, and the narrow streets of lower New York traffic could be regulated so that on certain streets it would be allowed to go only one way and on other streets the other way."

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