(KMID/KPEJ) – Speed limit signs are everywhere, from highways, to neighborhoods, to even the most remote roads. But do you know how these speed limits came into existence or how the state determines what the speed limit is on a given road?

Speed limits in America can be traced as far back as 1652, when the New Amsterdam colony, what is now New York, issued a decree stating: “[N]o wagons, carts or sleighs shall be run, rode or driven at a gallop,” with violators risking a fine starting at “two pounds Flemish,” or about $150 in today’s currency.

Fast forward to 1899, when the New York City cabdriver Jacob German was arrested for driving his electric taxi at 12 miles per hour. This was followed closely by Connecticut becoming the first state to pass a law regulating motor vehicles on May 21, 1901. This regulation limited the speed of motor vehicles to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads.

This law began when a bill was submitted by Representative Robert Woodruff to the State General Assembly, proposing a motor-vehicles speed limit of 8 mph inside city limits and 12 mph outside.

However, the law that passed in 1901 specified higher speed limits but required drivers to slow down upon approaching or passing a horse-drawn vehicle, coming to a complete stop if necessary to avoid scaring animals.

New York wouldn’t introduce the world’s first comprehensive traffic code until 1903, with the adoption of speed regulations and other traffic codes being a slow and uneven process across the nation.

Twelve states had no speed limit, and 28 states did not require a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle, as of as late as 1930.

President Richard Nixon would sign a national speed limit of 55 mph into law in January of 1974, after rising fuel costs contributed to the lowered speed limits in several states in the early 1970s. This led to the drop of miles travelled from 4.28 million miles in 1972 to 2.73 million miles in 1983.

Congress would later increase speed limits on rural interstates to 65 mph in 1987, followed by the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 repealing the maximum speed limit. This Act returns the control of setting speed limits to the states, including rural and urban interstates and limited access roads.

The fastest road in America currently is a 40-mile stretch of toll road between Austin and San Antonio, legally allowing drivers to travel at 85 mph. Speed limits have shifted across America with cars becoming faster and roads becoming safer.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation website, speed limits on Texas highways are set using the 85th percentile method, which represents the speed the majority of drivers will be traveling at or below. A principle which has been used to set speed limits for highways across the U.S. for the past 60 years.

Speed checks are conducted to determine the 85th percentile speed. The observed free-flowing speed for vehicles is tallied and the 85th percentile speed is calculated using gathered information. To ensure a true reflection of a normal traffic situation, speed checks are made on average weekdays during off-peak hours, under favorable weather conditions.

More information about the history of speed limits and how they are set today can be found on the History Channel website, the American Safety Council website, or the TxDOT website.