The automobile has a long history in Santa Maria | Shirley Contreras | Local News

Henry Ford, who opened the first auto assembly line in 1913, was all the rage in the industry when he started paying his employees $ 5 a day.

Ten years later, the automobile was on the way from being a rich man’s toy to being a national necessity.

Back then, however, only the very wealthy could afford to own a car, unlike today, where there can be as many cars in a household as there are people living in them.

It didn’t take long for Santa Maria to host an annual street race, attracting big names in local motor racing like Huyck, Omer and, of course, Deane Laughlin, who brought the first automobile to the valley in June 1903.

As racing drivers raced down the haystack lined streets of Broadway, Stowell, Nance (now Bradley) and Main Street, Winston Wickenden, who watched the race from the front porch of his parents’ house across from the high school, a Me said, he thought it was interesting that none of the stripped-down speed cars (which the drivers themselves had built) had windshields.

Most residents of Santa Maria viewed the loud and offensive smoke-filled race unsightly and disliked that their main streets were linked to this dangerous sight. However, as this brought many tourists to the city, they mostly suffered in silence.

Since the laws on books in one city weren’t necessarily the same as in neighboring cities, the enforcement of all laws, at all, was mostly a fluke.

The time has come, however, for the state to eliminate the mishmash of conflicting laws, have uniform registration fees, and, in order to preserve existing roads, create truck weight limits.

Owning a car brought a feeling of freedom, of being able to go wherever you wanted, on roads that were improving little by little, year after year. As drivers learned about their “new toy” responsibilities, the state became interested in road construction and maintenance.

Since California’s first paved road, built in 1912, began to collapse long before obligations were paid off, the standards contractors had to meet were a necessity, as were the widths of regulated roads. One of the advantages of regulated road widths was that two cars could pass each other.

Meanwhile, the local motorcycle police team, a precursor to today’s California Highway Patrol, took responsibility for enforcing the laws as they existed at the time. These early vigilantes on wheels hid behind billboards and watched cars equipped with this new invention, the rear-view mirror, believing that the drivers of any car equipped with such a device surely had to accelerate.

The Vehicle Act of 1912 created speeds so low that drivers were known to complain that they could have reached their destination faster by walking.

The law required that motorists, past and present, must travel at speeds safe for the conditions so as not to endanger the life, physical integrity or property of anyone. However, at no time did the speed exceed 35 mph.

The first gasoline tax of 2 cents a gallon was set, with one cent going to counties and one cent going to the state for road and highway maintenance.

G. Allan Hancock, who was president of the Auto Club in 1908 and 1909, began a road sign campaign. In 1915, 7,000 miles of roads in Southern California carried the club warning signs – “Slow – Pedestrian Crossing”, “Bumps in the Road”, “Attention – Depression” and “Avis – This is not. a crossing street “.

The familiar bronze “Good Road” signs were posted on the roads from San Diego to Porterville.

Originally called a “horse-less car, the automobile presented many challenges to the state, and the first 50 years of auto legislation focused on creating laws, rules and guidelines to ensure that All California laws allow all cities and counties to issue licenses. for bicycles, tricycles, automobiles, carriages and similar wheeled vehicles.

In 1905, it became clear that California should issue a statewide vehicle registration system. an official DMV.

By that year, vehicle registrations had climbed to 191,000 in the state of California.

The California Vehicle Act of 1914 created laws governing everything to do with driving and vehicles. Year after year, new laws have been enacted and existing laws have been amended to deal with the increasing number of vehicles traveling on California roads each year.

The California Vehicle Code still sets the rules of the road and sets out the penalties for disobeying those laws.

In 1931, the powers and functions of the DMV were transferred to the Motor Vehicle Division, which was actually part of the Department of Finance. It was then that the government realized that the DMV could produce a decent income.

The first number plates, in porcelain and red brick painted with white letters, were issued in 1914. Over the years, the plates have changed color and style. Many were on display in Mussell Fort, the small western town on Tepusquet Canyon Road and built by Elwin Mussell in 1952. Mussell was mayor of Santa Maria from 1974 to 1980.

Long before passing from the status of a national toy to that of national necessity, the automobile, with enough power to frighten a horse, was often described by the general public as a “hellish nuisance”.

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