The year was 1917 – a time before there were traffic lights, when horse-drawn vehicles were still a large part of the traffic in any town or city, before automatic transmissions and even before most cars had brakes on their front wheels. Livery was most commonly associated with hiring a horse and carriage with a driver; the idea of livery service using automobile was just coming to the largest cities.
Nonetheless, anyone looking to be a chauffeur had to pass a state exam. To help potential drivers study up, the sixth edition of Dyke’s Automobile and Gasoline Engine Encyclopedia had just been published. The book offered a series of questions similar to those found on state chauffeur exams.
Q: What equipments are required by law on motor vehicles?
A: License number plates on front and rear of machine, two side lamps, one tail lamp and horn or other signaling device. [Notice that headlamps were not required – except when driving at night.]
Q: What are the road and street speed laws of most cities?
A: Not allowing to run over 30 miles an hour, and 4, 6 or 8 in the city; use judgment.
Q: What vehicles usually have the right of way in large cities?
A: Fire department, ambulance, mail wagons and heavily loaded trucks, police and emergency wagons.
Q: What is the speed limit in crowded city streets?
A: Four to six miles per hour. [Ed. note: This is not much different from the actual rush-hour speed today on some freeways and city streets.]
Q: What penalty is there, according to law, for any person driving a car while in an intoxicated condition?
A: Felony; revoke license perhaps.
Q: What offense would justify a magistrate to revoke your license?
A: Driving while intoxicated or trying to escape after an accident.
Q: What is meant by three blasts of a police whistle?
A: An alarm signal; all vehicles pull as close to the curb as quickly as possible and stop.
Q: What would you do if you saw an automobile or any other vehicle trying to escape from justice after injuring a person on the public highway?
A: Take his number and render any assistance I could to apprehend the offender.
Q: What is the penalty for a person trying to escape after such an accident; what is the nature of the crime he is committing?
A: Felony; his license could be revoked.
Q: If when traveling on the public highway you discovered some fault with your steering device, what would you do?
A: Stop at once and fix it.
Q: If the engine could not pull the car up a hill on high speed, what would you do?
A: Change into next lower gear.
Q: If the engine was not powerful enough to pull the car up a hill on first gear or low speed, what speed would you use?
A: Turn the car around and go up on reverse.
Q: If you should wish to pass the vehicle directly in front of you, on which side of the vehicle would you pass?
A: Left side.
Q: What are you required to do when a horse or other animal on the highway appears frightened?
A: Slow up or stop, if necessary. On a narrow country road it may be necessary to stop the engine.
Q: If you wish to stop your car and your foot brake does not hold, what would you do?
A: Use the emergency or hand brake.
Q: In the event of a vehicle coming towards you on the highway, what precautions would you take?
A: Keep to the right; blow horn, if necessary.
Q: How would you control your car going down a steep incline?
A: Retard spark and gas, put machine in low gear, switch off ignition, and, if necessary, also use hand brake.
Q: What would you do if a car, while proceeding in front of you, suddenly swung around in your course?
A: Slow up or stop, blow horn, hold out hand or operate signal light as warning to anyone in rear.
Q: Should you be going south on a busy street and you wished to turn west, how would you turn?
A: Slow down to four miles an hour, hold out hand as signal for vehicles in rear and turn west, keeping northwest of center crossing.
Q: Should you be going north and you wished to turn west, how would you turn?
A: Slow down to four miles per hour, hold out hand as signal for vehicles in rear, and turn west, keeping northeast of center of crossing.
Q: How would you start the car if unable to turn the crank?
A: Jack up the rear wheel, putting speed lever into high gear. After starting the engine, put the lever in neutral.
Q: What is your gas lever for?
A: For controlling the amount of fuel for the engine.
Q: What is your accelerator for?
A: A foot control for the throttle.
Q: What is the clutch for?
A: For engaging or disengaging the engine from the driving wheels.