Commonwealth v. Kingsbury

Decision Date19 October 1908
Citation199 Mass. 542,85 N.E. 848
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Richard W. Irwin, Dist. Atty., for the Commonwealth.

Charles N. Stoddard and Philip H. Ball, for defendant.



The defendant was convicted of having operated an automobile in violation of law, over a highway legally laid out in the town of Ashfield, from which automobiles were excluded under the authority of the statutes. He took exception to the refusal of the court to make certain rulings requested, which, in a variety of forms, raised the question whether St. 1905, p. 289, c. 366, § 1, as amended by St 1906, p. 425, c. 412, § 9, and St. 1907, p. 153, c. 203, were constitutional. The first of these statutes authorizes boards of aldermen in cities and boards of selectmen in towns to 'make special regulations as to the speed of automobiles and motor cycles, and as to the use of such vehicles on particular roads, including their complete exclusion therefrom.' These regulations must be published in one or more newspapers and posted conspicuously on sign boards. On protest in writing within 60 days, made by not less than 50 residents of Massachusetts, at least 10 of whom are taxpayers of the city or town, the Massachusetts highway commission after notice and a hearing, may approve the regulations, and if there is such a protest the special regulations are of no validity without such approval. St. 1907, p. 153, c. 203, prescribes penalties for violation of the regulations. The contention of the defendant is that the Legislature had no constitutional right to enact such a law.

Automobiles are vehicles of great speed and power, whose appearance is frightful to most horses that are unaccustomed to them. The use of them introduces a new element of danger to ordinary travelers on the highways, as well as to those riding in the automobiles. In order to protect the public great care should be exercised in the use of them. Statutory regulations of their speed while running on the highways is reasonable and proper for the promotion of the safety of the public. It is the duty of the Legislature, in the exercise of the police power, to consider the risks that arise from the use of new inventions applying the forces of nature in previously unknown ways. The general principle is too familiar to need discussion. It has been applied to automobiles in different states with the approval of the courts. Com. v. Boyd, 188 Mass. 79, 74 N.E. 225, 108 Am. St. Rep. 464; Christy v. Elliott, 216 Ill. 31, 74 N.E. 1035, 1 L. R. A. (N. S.) 215, 108 Am. St. Rep. 196; People v. Schneider, 139 Mich. 673, 103 N.W. 172, 69 L. R. A. 345; People v. MacWilliams (Sup.) 86 N.Y.S. 357.

It seems too plain for discussion that, with a view to the safety of the public, the Legislature may pass laws regulating the speed of such machines when running upon highways. The same principle is applicable to a determination by the Legislature that there are some streets and ways on which such machines should not be allowed at all. In some parts of the state, where there is but little travel, public necessity and convenience have required the construction of ways which are steep and narrow, over which it might be difficult to run an automobile, and where it would be very dangerous for the occupants if automobiles were used upon them. In such places it might be much more dangerous for travelers with horses and with vehicles of other kinds if automobiles were allowed there. No one has a right to use the streets and public places as he chooses, without regard to the safety of other persons who are rightly there. In choosing his vehicle, every one must consider whether it is of a kind which will put in peril...

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1 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Boston & Maine Transportation Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1933
    ...Railway, 273 U.S. 45, 49, 52. Automobiles may under legislative authority be wholly excluded from particular highways. Commonwealth v. Kingsbury, 199 Mass. 542 State v. Mayo, 106 Maine, 62. People v. Rosenheimer, 209 N.Y. 115, 120. Hodge Drive-It-Yourself Co. v. Cincinnati, 284 U.S. 335, 33......

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