April 1, 1916 was a grand day in Santa Rosa as an estimated 20,000 visitors – “one of the largest [crowds] ever seen here,” boasted the Press Democrat – joined residents to cheer a parade of autos two miles long. No, it wasn’t the Rose Carnival (there wasn’t one that year) but “Safety First Day” organized by town bigwigs. Hyped as being the kickoff of a new national semi-holiday, six newsreel camera crews were on hand to record the doings.
There were all manner of safety-related demonstrations. Firemen extinguished a mock fire on the roof of the Santa Rosa Savings Bank, although there was a delay because a car was illegally parked in front of the hydrant. A PG&E lineman faked electrocution (!) and was given aid by a doctor and nurse who were part of the act, which was performed so convincingly that two doctors in the audience rushed up to help. The parade included two boys carrying an enormous model of a safety pin which was a real crowd-pleaser for some reason, and the Petaluma contingent included children dressed as chickens (of course).
But the main focus of Safety First Day was “instructing people in the rules of the road and operating of automobiles to prevent accidents.” Earlier the San Francisco Examiner promoted the event with promises that “expert drivers of motor cars will give exhibitions of the right and wrong way of driving in the city streets…drivers will give an actual demonstration how automobiles should be operated to comply with the laws” and not to be left out, “pedestrians will also be taught how to cross the streets. Dummies will be used to show how the drivers of cars have to avoid the average pedestrian who never looks up or down the street before crossing.”
Luther Burbank and his new Willys-Knight five-passenger touring car were at the front of the parade, and afterwards the Examiner quoted his enthusiastic endorsement of the event. “Such a demonstration as this is amazing…if adopted nationally it would be one of the greatest benefits to humanity. I had no idea that it would be as good as this.”
Unfortunately, a few months later our Luther was involved in a safety mishap which could have ended tragically. He and Elizabeth were driving to the movies when he confused the accelerator with the brake pedal. The big car lurched over the curb, narrowly missed a pedestrian, then crashed through the display window of the White House department store at Fourth and B streets. Burbank parked and called store owner Bill Carithers (did Burbank just walk through the broken window to use their phone?) before he and his wife proceeded with their plans to watch a romantic melodrama and a British documentary on WWI combat.
Gentle Reader might expect the most famous guy in town crashing through a plate glass window of the most popular store in town would merit more than a 200 word item on page eight of the PD. But despite the enthusiasm shown on 1916’s Safety First Day, in the following years even serious accidents became so commonplace they became back page fillers – it was rare to open the paper and not find reports of drivers and passengers being hurled out of their seats, a car “turning turtle” (flipping over) or a pedestrian being struck.
In the same issue with Burbank’s broken window there were two other major incidents reported. A driver lost his front teeth when his face smashed into the steering wheel in a collision, and a man who had been charged three days earlier for drunk driving demolished his car after it plunged over a 100-foot embankment on the Rincon Grade.
If the Press Democrat and other newspapers seemed cavalier about reckless driving and serious auto accidents, it could be they were only taking cues from the courts. In Sonoma County traffic complaints were handled by Justice Marvin Vaughan, who was on the bench 1915-1931. But until 1922, apparently no one brought before him served jail time, no matter how terrible the offense. Fines usually ranged from $5 to $100, the determining factors seeming to be whether the driver was from out of town and/or drunk. (For reference, $10 in 1920 was worth about $150 today.) Here’s an example of his lenient sentencing:
In a head-on collision on Santa Rosa Ave one of the cars flipped over, pinning Santa Rosa’s Gnesa sisters inside. (Maybe it was a family curse – four years earlier, their brother was likewise a passenger in an accident that ended with the auto upside down.) The young women were not seriously injured which the crowd that gathered thought was something of a miracle, considering both cars were pretty well trashed.
But that wasn’t the only lucky surprise that Friday night. While people were gawking at the wreckage, a car driven by Julius Momsen of Petaluma sped through the crowd, somehow managing to not hit anyone. A high-speed chase by police ended with Momsen finally stopped on the outskirts of Petaluma.
Charged with driving recklessly through the crowd and speeding, Momsen was fined all of $20. While he might have also spent a month behind bars, Justice Vaughan allowed him to have his auto “jailed” for thirty days instead.
Judge Vaughan heard all sorts of cases besides traffic (my new favorite headline: “Youth Who Stole Tinfoil Released”) and while trials were sometimes held in his courtroom, few reckless drivers faced a jury. A rare exception was when George Hedrick was charged with nearly killing Hilda Brockelman; she was walking “several feet” off the side of the road when she was struck by his car. Her neck was broken and the trial delayed for several weeks as they waited for a special neck brace to arrive so she could leave the hospital to testify. The jury couldn’t decide (the split was 10-2, with two voting for acquittal) and Hedrick – whose only defense was that he had been blinded by oncoming headlights – was not retried.
Although this article just covers dangerous driving in the six years following Safety First Day, looking farther down the road it can be seen that serious accidents were ever increasing at an alarming rate. To get a rough idea of how it progressed, I searched the Press Democrat digital archives for “reckless driving”. From 86 hits in the 1910s it jumped to 1,314 during the 1920s.
While there are no official statistics for Sonoma County, we can be sure the true numbers were actually much higher. Those figures are inaccurate mainly because some combination of those two words appeared in less than half of the PD articles on the topic – recklessness was usually not mentioned because it was implied by the scenario. Also, lots of references were missed because the OCR text of the archive is mediocre, at best; in one case, it translated the headline “RECKLESS AUTOMOBILE DRIVING” into “BfiS JUTiIBBILE DRIVING” (go figure).
Driving too fast was always the main reason for accidents; state traffic law c. 1920 put the speed limit at 35, and then only when a thoroughfare was clear. A man near modern-day Rohnert Park clocked autos on the highway going 50-60 MPH but before you presume that’s still a reasonable speed, remember that cars a century ago were clunky. They were like cumbersome little tractors and keeping them on course was a constant physical fight with the steering wheel. They had no power brakes or power anything else and their pneumatic tires were forever blowing out.
Another frequent cause was not using lights after dark. Cars and trucks a century ago had carbide lamps, which had to be lit by hand and powered by a small acetylene gas tank usually mounted on the running board. Many articles about accidents mentioned a factor was having no tail light or just one working headlight, presumably to save acetylene fuel. In a 1920 incident a pair of brothers were headed home to Todd Road when their lights failed. Figuring they were close enough to make it the rest of the way by the moon they continued driving, only to have a head-on collision with another car driving in the dark.
Also mentioned by the PD were accidents caused by unskilled drivers cutting in (“if you are traveling 30 miles an hour, no other car has the right to pass you,” the paper reminded) and parents letting children under sixteen drive unsupervised. In my survey of the 1917-1922 local newspapers I didn’t find any mention of either causing an accident, but the PD and District Attorney cited these as serious problems.
Riffling through those old Press Democrats will turn up more than a few crazy stories that border Believe-it-or-Not! territory. In 1920 a Santa Rosa taxi driver and another fellow raced down the Sonoma Valley road while shooting at each other. The cabbie received “slight gunshot wounds” while the other man was taken to Judge Vaughan’s courtroom. The fine for driving too fast while blasting away at someone on a public highway was $50.
And remember the driver who crashed his car on the Rincon Grade the same day as Luther Burbank’s accident? His drunk driving arrest three days earlier was for trying to knock a streetcar off the tracks at Fourth and E streets.
There was also an alarming uptick in hit-and-run incidents starting in 1920, which I suspect was related to the enactment of Prohibition. Drunk driving was likewise on the increase and a year earlier the state had made it a felony. While Justice Vaughan can be found reducing intoxication charges to merely careless driving, no judge would be lenient with drunken yahoos who run over people. Sure, some might have been so snockered as to not realize a person had been hit, but it seems more likely many were hoping to get away without being caught in bad shape at the scene. (Fun fact: “Drunken yahoos” dates back to 1810 England and coined to mock the king’s counsellors.)
It grew so bad by 1922 even Vaughan started handling out jail time. After a hit-and-run driver struck 9 year-old Virginia Bufford while walking home from the Todd district elementary school, the judge sentenced him to a week in the county jail. Not much, but he said his decision was mitigated by the child not being seriously injured and the driver giving $55 to her family.
But the number of serious accidents kept escalating through the year, culminating in four deaths during the autumn including a Civil War vet killed as he was crossing the street in Healdsburg. One of the other victims died via a hit-and-run. There were four other hit-and-run injuries around the same time.
Following those incidents, in December 1922 District Attorney Hoyle published an unusual open letter in the Press Democrat calling for the county courts to crackdown on dangerous drivers:
“In practically every one of these cases the cause is traceable to carelessness, and in almost even case of such carelessness the person knew he was violating the law…Small fines amount to nothing. It is an indirect way of licensing these violations of the law…I shall therefore ask the magistrates of the county in all cases of these more serious violations of the Motor Vehicle act to impose prison sentences instead of fines…”
These problems were by no means unique to us; reckless driving had become a nationwide crisis and nobody had a solution. Officials like DA Hoyle said the answer was stiffer laws; preachers said it was a morality problem spurred by Demon Rum; pundits were inching their way towards calling the young people who were usually the culprits as the Roaring 20s “Lost Generation.” But in the meantime, many cities experimented with shaming the offenders.
The PD and other papers ran articles and photo spreads of Detroit drivers being taken to hospital wards of children who had been hit. Speedsters in Cleveland were escorted to a 7 year-old girl’s burial under police guard and Los Angeles offenders scrubbed jail floors by hand. Did any of this slow down the increase in reckless driving? Look again at the chart above.
I decided to cut this horrific driving survey off at the end of 1922 because it was a watershed moment when some actually believed this problem could be solved. There may someday be a “Years of Driving Dangerously II” that continues this series but frankly, I’m not sure I have the stomach for all that mayhem.
SANTA ROSA HAS 1ST SAFETY 1ST DAY IN STATE
What Stuart Gayness, Automobile Editor of The Examiner, Has to Say of Tomorrow’s Big Event
(By Stuart Gayness)
Big preparations are being made for the “Safety First” day celebration which will be observed Saturday at Santa Rosa.
The City of Roses will give over the entire day to practical demonstrations of the safety first rules for motorists, pedestrians and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles. This will be the first event of its kind ever held in California, and because of the possibilities it offers for the education of the public in the safety first campaign it will probably be followed by similar events in other cities throughout the country.
Expert drivers of motor cars will give exhibitions of the right and wrong way of driving in the city streets. They will show how each driver of a machine should obey the State and city traffic laws. How the drivers should stop and let passengers alight on the sidewalks, how close to drive to a street car and when to stop for other vehicles. In fact, the drivers will give an actual demonstration how automobiles should be operated to comply with the laws and at the same time co-operate with the safety first campaign.
Pedestrians will also be taught how to cross the streets. Dummies will be used to show how the drivers of cars have to avoid the average pedestrian who never looks up or down the street before crossing. It is hoped by the Santa Rosa authorities to impress the public so strongly with the necessity of obeying the traffic laws that the safety first day will be a big factor in reducing the number of accidents in that city.
Because it places before the drivers of vehicles and the pedestrian an unusual opportunity of realizing how they endanger their lives, the safety first day would be a good idea for all cities. If every city in the country would hold an annual safety first day, at which time drivers of cars and horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians would be shown how to follow the safety first rules, it would be a most important step in the elimination of accidents.
– Press Democrat, March 31 1916
RECKLESS DRIVE ACROSS STREETS
Collision of Cars at Fifth and B Streets — The Law Should Be Better Observed.
Fast driving at street intersections resulted in an auto accident at Fifth and B streets Thursday afternoon, shortly before 5 o’clock when Will Harris, driving a Ford truck, collided with John Keith of San Francisco, driving a small roadster, as the latter was crossing Fifth.
Harris’ car was turned completely around and an elderly gentleman, riding with Harris, was thrown out but the occupants of both cars escaped injury. What was still strange is the fact that neither car was damaged other than slight dents on the fenders.
The accident was witnessed by a number of people and a crowd quickly gathered. Mr. Harris admitted he was driving at a speed which made it impossible for him to stop when he saw Keith who had the right of way come into sight, despite the fact that he made every effort to do so.
The law is being generally ignored in Santa Rosa relative to street in intersections and it is marvelous that more serious accidents do not occur. Some one is going to be killed or maimed for life and then there will be something done to stop the unlawful speed used by auto drivers at practically every street corner.
The law is plain and distinct in giving the man to your right the right of way and it is the duty of all drivers to watch their right side and see that they keep clear of all cars coming from that direction while on the road as well as to reduce speed to ten miles per hour at intersections.
– Press Democrat, June 29 1917
DRIVES AUTO INTO AN ELECTRIC CAR
D. C. Hoffman, While Intoxicated, Tears Step off Street Car and Rips off the Side of His Automobile When He Endeavors to Bump Bigger Machine off the Track Saturday Night — Man Arrested.
D. C. Hoffman was arrested by Police Officers William Shaffer and George W. Matthews on Saturday night, charged with driving an automobile while in an intoxicated condition.
Hoffman, who had two other men with him, tried to bump the outgoing electric train at Fourth and E streets off the track. The motormän saw a reckless driver was approaching and stopped his car so as to avoid accident. Hoffman drove his auto into the electric car. tore off one of the side steps and ripped off the side of his automobile.
The charge of operating an automobile while in an intoxicated condition is a very serious one.
– Press Democrat, November 11 1917
AUTO JUMPS INTO A BIG WINDOW
Luther Burbank Puts Foot on What He Thought Was the Brake—Instead It Was “More Gas,” and Car Goes Through White House Window.
Luther Burbank accidentally drove his auto into one of the plate glass windows on the B street front of the White House shortly after 7 o’clock Wednesday evening. The big glass was shattered but beyond that no damage was done.
Mr. Burbank with his wife had driven down town to attend the Cline to see the British tanks in operation. As he drove up to the curb to park his machine he placed his foot on the brake pedal as he supposed, and when the curb was reached jammed it down hard.
The result was far from his expectations. Instead of it being the foot brake he had placed his foot on the accelerator lever and when ready to stop had given the engine a full charge of gasoline causing it to jump forward, mount the curb and dash into the window.
The error was quickly corrected but the damage was done. A man passing narrowly escaped being caught in the wild jump of the car. Both Mr. and Mrs. Burbank sat and quietly surveyed the wreck and then, without a word of comment, Mr. Burbank reversed the machine and backed it out and off the sidewalk to its place in the street at the curb. Both alighted and went to the theatre after notifying W. R. Carithers of the accident.
– Press Democrat, November 15 1917
Pays Fine of $25 for Reckless Auto Driving
Earl Ronshimer of Penngrove, charged with reckless driving when he visited Occidental last week, when a companion shot up the town, paid a fine of $25 in Justice Vaughan’s court yesterday.
– Press Democrat, January 5 1918
AUTO OWNERS IGNORE LAWS
Speeding, Head and Tail Lights, Children Driving Cars, Are Some of the More Common Infractions Which May Result in Arrest and Fines.
An auto driver was fined $5 Thursday for speeding on Humboldt avenue. He was caught, but many others escape the fine because officers cannot be everywhere at once.
Many auto owners are violating the laws by running at night with only one light in front. The law calls for two as well as a tail light. Officers will arrest all caught ignoring the law relative to lights.
Much complaint is made regarding the practice of owners allowing young children to drive their cars. Boys and girls under 16 are frequently seen driving about town and country without an older person on the front seat with them, which is unsafe and against the state law.
– Press Democrat, September 6 1918
Suggested Remedy for Reckless Auto Driving
A contributor to a San Francisco daily makes a practical suggestion for the prevention of reckless and careless driving of autos which might be put into effect with good results. He says:
To insure sobriety and carefulness, it might be advisable to revive a perfectly good law that was enforced in Athens The edict provided that a ferryman or other person engaged in transportation. who put in jeopardy the life of a Greek, such person, after being adequately punished, was forbidden ever again to ply his trade, under penalty of death. To deprive these drunken yahoos of their autos would be just and would be to them a more severe punishment than hanging.
– Press Democrat, September 19 1918
The Supervisors deprecated the dismissal of some cases in which speed violators had been allowed by certain magistrates to go with a warning when in the opinion of witnesses the punishment should have been severe. It is planned to put a check upon reckless driving, specially on the state highway, and this matter had better be understood by motorists. The two traffic officers have been cautioned to be vigilant and there is no mistake that they are.
– Press Democrat, September 21 1918
TAXI AND AUTOMOBILE IN COLLISION YESTERDAY
Reckless driving of machines in the streets of Santa Rosa is a common sight, and despite many arrests and fines in the past the practice is maintained by certain drivers, who appear to have no regard for their own safety or that of others.
Yesterday afternoon, what was described a racing taxi, crashed into the Ford auto of Richard Davis at Humboldt as the taxi was racing for the S. P. depot, upset the Ford and smashed it into a mass of ruins, narrowly escaping killing Mr. and Mrs. Davis and their three children.
The top was entirely torn to pieces, the glass windshield was crushed into fragments, a case of eggs was scattered and crushed over the car and inmates, while the occupants were buried under the car and debris. For a time it was believed a babe had been killed owing to the cries of the frightened and bruised mother, but this proved untrue.
The family was taken into the home of Justice and Mrs. M. T. Vaughan and a physician summoned, who quieted the shocked family and found that no bones had been broken. Mr. Davis appeared to be the worst injured, but it is believed he escaped any serious injury, although all suffered a terrible nervous shock. Every one who witnessed the accident agrees that the taxicab was driving at a reckless gait and was unable to stop when it was seen that an accident would occur.
– Press Democrat, December 25 1918
SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST DRIVER
James Aquistapace Arrested for Driving While Intoxicated — Narrowly Escaped Injuring Machine Loaded With Family When He Ran on to Sidewalk on Mendocino Avenue.
James Aquistapace was arrested Sunday afternoon charged with operating an automobile while intoxicated. Witnesses who saw him drive up Fifth street declare that he would undoubtedly killed Mr. Meacham, wife and baby, who were driving out Mendocino street, had he not hit the iron policeman in the street, which deflected his course sufficient to make him hit the Meacham car a glancing blow. Aquistapace went on down Mendocino avenue on the sidewalk to Fourth street before getting his car stopped.
Traffic officers placed the man under arrest and Monday he was taken before Justice Vaughan and arraigned. He asked for time to secure an attorney. Later he returned represented by Attorney Fulwider and his hearing was set for Friday morning at 10 o’clock. Aquistapace refused to answer any questions propounded by the Judge until they had been explained by one of his countrymen in his own language.
– Press Democrat, March 18 1919
JUDGE ‘UP TREE’ AS TO DISPOSITION OF AUTO HE SEIZED
After relieving J. Momsen of Petaluma of the use of his automobile for thirty days Monday, Judge Vaughan is now in a quandary as to what to do with the machine.
He has no garage of his own in which to keep the car and he could not pay storage bill at a garage out of the fine money collected. On last reports he has about decided to pass the buck to Sheriff Petray and place the machine in his charge for safekeeping for the time.
Momsen was fined $20 and relieved of his machine on two charges, one exceeding the speed limit and another of reckless driving preferred against him by Traffic Officer Long.
His arrest grew out of his driving recklessly through the crowd gathered about the accident south of town Friday evening and the subsequent chase he gave the traffic officer, who caught him on the outskirts of Petaluma.
In line with the policy of increasing severity of fines the judge decided to try jailing the machine rather than the defendant. However, in the case Momsen was given the choice of going to jail himself for relinquishing his machine for the period and he chose the latter.
– Press Democrat, March 30, 1920
SPEEDERS TO BE CURBED HERE BY MOTOR OFFICER
Council Votes Month’s Trial in Effort to Stop Reckless Driving
The city council at the mid-month meeting last night authorized Chief of Police Matthews to appoint a traffic officer with a motorcycle to watch autoists and see that the laws of city and state were better obeyed within the city limits.
The action was taken on the request of the Chief, who declared it was impossible for a policeman on foot or a bicycle to catch an autoist, and with the greatly increased traffic of the sumner months such an officer was badly needed.
The Mayor and several of the councilmen endorsed the plan and it was declared that such an officer would more than earn his salary in restricting careless and reckless drivers on the city streets. When asked if he could get a man the Chief said he had a man in view who understood his business. It was decided to try the plan out for a month and if it proved successful to keep him on all summer.
– Press Democrat, May 19 1920
TWO SPEEDING AUTO DUELISTS TO FACE COURT
Warrants for reckless driving have been sworn out in the Sonoma justice court against Constantino (Scotty) Maggiori of Santa Rosa and George F. Blanco of Vallejo, who figured in a sensational racing and shooting episode last week on the road near El Verano.
The warriors have been placed in the hands of Constable Jack Murray, with instructions to see that both men are brought into court. Indignation in the Sonoma valley has been running high since the two men took turns in passing each other at high speed and in exchanging shots on a public highway.
Maggiori, a Santa Rosa taxi-cab driver, suffered slight gunshot wounds, while his opponent in the racing and shooting was fined $50 in the Santa Rosa Justice court.
– Press Democrat, August 3 1920
BOY’S LEG BROKEN IN AUTO ACCIDENT
Raymond King, 13-year-old son of Mrs. R. King of Rincon Valley, was run down by a Ford truck on the Rincon valley road Friday morning and suffered a broken leg, and the officers are looking for B. H. Cook, who was charged with reckless driving and striking the child and failing to stop and give assistance.
The boy was brought into Santa Rosa and taken to a hospital following the accident. George M. Hansen, county traffic officer, made some inquiries into the accident and then swore to the complaint against Cook, and the warrant was issued in justice court by Judge Marvin T. Vaughan.
– Press Democrat, October 9 1920
LIGHTLESS CARS COLLIDE IN DARK
Callisa Brothers Injured Saturday Night in Collision Near Kenwood, One in Hospital
Joseph Callisa was taken to the General hospital Saturday evening, with a broken knee cap, as the result of an automobile accident which occurred near Kenwwood after dark. Louis Callisa, a brother also suffered several cuts on the nose and over his left eyebrow as a result of the collision.
The two brothers have been working at Vallejo and were on their way to the Todd District to visit their parents. Shorty after dark their lights went out for some inexplicable cause and they thought they could manage the rest of the distance, it being only about ten miles farther to their destination, without lights.
When about seven miles from Santa Rosa they collided with another machine in the dark. The second lightless machine was said to have been owned by a resident of Kenwood. Both machines were badly damaged in the smash but the occupants of the second car escaped injury.
Louis Callisa was able to proceed home after having his cuts attended by a Santa Rosa physician. His brother will be confined to the hospital for several days.
– Press Democrat, October 10 1920
Washington, Dec 8 – A total of 3,808 persons were killed in automobile accidents, or died as a result of injuries therefrom during the last year, the census bureau announced today in a statement offering suggestions for traffic improvement automobile accident death rate of 14.1 out of every 100,000 population was reported in 1919, an increase over every year since 1915 when the rate was 8.0 and an increase of 245 in the total number of deaths of 1918.
A SANTA ROSA MAN timed several automobiles traveling between 50 and 60 miles an hour at a point between Wilfred and Cotati Sunday afternoon. He secured the numbers of eight machines, one right after the other, traveling at least 15 miles an hour over the legal rate of speed…
– Press Democrat, February 17 1921
WOMAN WITH NECK BROKEN FAILS TO CONVINCE JURORS
The jury hearing the case of G. W. Hedrick, charged with reckless driving, tried in the Justice court before Judge Marvin T. Vaughan, disagreed and was discharged Thursday. The jury stood 10 for conviction and two for acquittal at the time it was discharged.
The case will come up for new trial soon Judge Vaughan stated Thursday.
Hedrick is charged with reckless driving on the highway between this city and Bellevue. The complaint states that he ran down Mrs. Hilda Brockelman who was walking south on the highway. Mrs. Brockelman’s neck was broken in the accident. She claims that at the time she was struck she was walking several feet to one side of the highway.
Hedrick claims that the lights of the car that he passed just before he hit Mrs. Brockelman blinded him and he did not see her. Mrs. Brockelman, who has been in a local hospital since the accident, was one of the witnesses for the prosecution Thursday, appearing in court with a special brace on her neck.
– Press Democrat, July 8 1921
Our Careless Pedestrians
Most of the criticism directed against reckless driving is just, and most accidents are the result of carelessness in driving. But it is absurd to make assumption that the driver is always responsible when he bumps into a pedestrian.
It has been seriously proposed in one city that killing of a pedestrian by an automobile should lead automatically to the punishment of the driver for murder. That would be as tragic a travesty on justice as to apply the same rule to railroad accidents, and always sentence the engineer for murder without hearing the evidence.
Every pedestrian knows that the community is full of careless drivers, and every motorist knows that the community is full of careless walkers. The driver of a car has the superior obligation to look out for the other fellow, because in case of a collision it is the other fellow who is likely to get hurt. But the pedestrian certainly shares the responsibility for avoiding a collision. It is up to him to take reasonable precautions for his own safety, and also to realize that even a citizen driving an automobile has traffic rights which a fellow-citizen on foot ought to respect.
– Press Democrat, December 28 1921
FRATES PLEADS HIS INNOCENCE
Man Accused of Running Down Little Girl Released on Bail of $250.
Frank Frates, who was arrested on a complaint of Miss Irene Sink, school teacher in the Todd district, charged with reckless driving and with running down little Virginia Bufford a few days ago, pleaded not guilty when brought before Judge Marvin T. Vaughan yesterday.
Frates was released on $250 bonds and is to appear in court again this morning to have a date set for the trial.
The little girl was at first thought to have been seriously injured, but it later developed that she was only slightly injured, and will soon be over her injuries.
The Bufford girl was returning from school to her home, walking along the highway when struck by a passing automobile, which did not stop. The license of the car, as taken by witnesses, is said to have corresponded with one issued to Frates.
– Press Democrat, February 1 1922
Jail Sentence for Reckless Driver
SANTA ROSA, Feb. 9. Frank Frates, accused of reckless driving, resulting in injuring a small girl near the Todd school, recently pleaded guilty to the charge before Justice M. T. Vaughan in the Justice court today and was sentenced to seven days in the county jail.
Frates had given the parents of the girl $55 and the court took into consideration his attitude to the parents in basing a decision. The court stated, however, that the reimbursing of the parents did not wholly satisfy the penalty for a criminal complaint.
Judge Vaughan stated following the trial, that the sentence was in line with the court’s policy to attempt to stock [sp] reckless automobile driving in the county.
– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, February 10 1922
Santa Rosa Youths In Petaluma Trouble
PETALUMA. April 8. Two Santa Rosa youths, said to have been drinking, were brought to town under arrest last night by Jack H. Kreitler, the well known highway official, and taken before Justice J. P. Gallagher, who fined them $50 each.
The youths were driving an auto in a reckless manner and drove through the barricades erected where repairs are under way, smashing lantern and barriers. One lantern still clung to their car when it reached this city.
They did not know how they got here or what they had been doing and both were very penitent and admitted their great wrong. They were allowed to return home, but not to drive their car. This is declared to be their first offense. Both are members of prominent families of Santa Rosa and both have good reputations, hence their names were withheld from publication.
– Press Democrat, April 9 1922
RECKLESSNESS MUST HALT
To The Press Democrat: Please grant me a little space in your valuable paper upon a very important subject.
Life is short at best, yet many a life is snuffed out prematurely either through the carelessness of himself or others. Within the last two weeks many automobile accidents have occurred in this county and people have been maimed and killed. In practically every one of these cases the cause is traceable to carelessness, and in almost even case of such carelessness the person knew he was violating the law. The automobile is here to stay, but the time has certainly arrived when there must be a more rigid enforcement of the law.
From reports received by me, speeding is not an uncommon thing; cutting-in about as common and much more dangerous, while headlights are not infrequent. These last three have caused many deaths, many cripples and the loss of much property in this county, and the time has come to call a halt. Small fines amount to nothing. It is an indirect way of licensing these violations of the law.
For the protection of life and property in the county I shall therefore ask the magistrates of the county in all cases of these more serious violations of the Motor Vehicle act to impose prison sentences instead of fines, as it seems to me to be the only way of correcting these existing conditions. The lives of our citizens are more important to the public than the occasional withdrawl of a man from society for a few days, weeks or months, while he is learning the lesson that he must respect the law and the rights of his fellow citizens. G. W. HOYLE District Attorney.
– Press Democrat, December 7 1922