History of Traffic Laws in Indiana


History of Traffic Laws in Indiana

Indiana’s First Speed Regulation Law

In 1905, the Indiana General Assembly passed the first laws regulating the speed of automobiles on public roadways. According to the General Assembly records, the first speed limits are as follows:

  • 8 mph “in the business and closely built up portions of any municipality of this state”
  • 15 mph “in other portions of such municipalities”
  • 20 mph “outside such municipalities”

Source: Laws of the State of Indiana Passed at the Sixty-Fourth Regular Session of the General Assembly. Indianapolis: WM B. Burford, 1905.

Famous Speeding Stories

Former Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard

Former Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard surrenders his license in demonstration of the old hand-written citation method. Using the new electronic citation warning system* (eCWS), officers will not need pen and paper; they can simply scan the bar code on the back of a license to retrieve the driver’s record.

This was a simulation used to demonstrate the new system.

President Grant

Oral histories and folktales claim that President Grant received a traffic ticket for recklessly driving his horse and buggy sometime during his presidency.

Some accounts say Grant himself drove the horses, while others place blame with the hired driver. In both versions Grant accepts sole responsibility. One account claims that the officer who stopped him did not want to cite him because he was the President. However, Grant insisted that the policeman do his duty and stated, “Nobody is above the law.” Depending on the source, the fine ranges from five to twenty dollars.

1. Schoenberg, Philip Ernest, PhD. Ulysses S. Grant on Leadership. 2000.
2. History Forum. President Grant and Speeding Ticket. 2006.

The Price You Pay for Speeding

In Indiana, points are added to driver’s license records when a driver commits an infraction. Points stay on record for two years, and 12 total points in a two-year span results in a probation period. If a driver receives a ticket during this probation, the result is license suspension. Below are some examples of infractions and their specific point values.

Two-point Violations

  • One to 15 mph over the speed limit
  • Failure to use headlights
  • Brake lights or signal lights not working

Four-point Violations

  • 16 to 25 mph over the speed limit
  • Illegal U-turn
  • Unsafe lane movement

Six-point Violations

  • 26 mph or more over the speed limit
  • Failure to stop or yield
  • Following too closely

Eight-point Violations

  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
  • Speed contest on road

Source: DMV.org, 2007. http://www.dmv.org/in-indiana/point-system.php

Indiana Speeding Citation from 1919

Carefree cruising in a Ford Model T might have resulted in a speeding citation for the unsuspecting Hoosier driver. The citation would have probably looked similar to this one issued in South Bend in June of 1919. In this case, the operator was ticketed for driving in excess of 15mph.

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1919 Speeding Ticket

Photo Courtesy: Ken Bogren, www.hupcapcafe.com, 2007
Original Affidavit: Indiana Supreme Court Archives

2009 Speed Limits

The First Indiana License Plate

The General Assembly, in addition to passing laws imposing speed limits, also required these newfangled horseless carriages to be appropriately licensed.

In 1913, Indiana issued its first license plate. It measure 4.5" x 14.5" and is the only Indiana plate to have a porcelain finish on a metal base.

1913 License Plate

License plate courtesy of Mary DePrez.

Speeding into the 21st Century

A new electronic citation warning system (2008) benefits the justice community and the citizens of Indiana by:

  • Eliminating handwritten tickets and the need to enter the same information into separate databases
  • Enhancing the safety of Hoosier streets and highways by identifying dangerous drivers quickly
  • Increasing officer safety by reducing the time it takes to make a traffic stop
  • Giving officers more time to patrol by reducing paperwork
  • Eliminating duplicate entries by law enforcement, courts, clerks, ISP and BMV
  • Increasing accuracy of information—data fields pre-populated from license and registration
  • Reducing errors because data is not retyped multiple times
  • Saving clerical time for clerks, courts and agencies because data is transferred electronically
  • Improving timeliness by making data available electronically