I figured Hylen’s theory merited investigation, so I contacted Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Teddy Roosevelt.
“I’ve never seen that phrase in any of TR’s writings or speeches,” he responded through his publisher, Random House.
Sharon Kilzer, who leads Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Center, likewise hadn’t heard of Roosevelt riding shotgun.
“Those I consulted confirmed my sense of this,” Kilzer e-mailed to me. “Amy Verone, chief curator of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site [Roosevelt’s homestead] made another important point. While buffalo hunters might have shot from the back of trains in the 1850s . . . [b]y the time TR came west, the large herds were all gone.”
Still 20 mph?
We’ll end with a question from someone who preferred to be known simply as an “avid column reader.”
“During school holidays, the flashing yellow ‘20 mph’ sign for the school zone continues to operate,” he wrote. “Many drivers just ignore it and speed past the school. Others dutifully slow down (much to the ire of the speeders, another issue). You could argue that no one is in school during holidays and slowing down is not necessary. . . . But you could also say there may be extracurricular activities like games or plays going on and the sign’s function is necessary for safety. What is the correct and legal response in this situation?”
For an answer, I turned to police instructor and lawyer John Sofis Scheft, whose consulting business, Law Enforcement Dimensions, is based in Arlington.
“If the school zone speed limit sign is white with black lettering, then . . . the posted speed limit of 20 miles per hour is in effect, regardless of whether school is in session or not,” he began. “Of course, officers may use their discretion in deciding whether to stop a motorist traveling at 35 miles per hour in a school zone at 12 a.m., but they may also enforce it, too.
“On the other hand, the flashing school zone signs are only enforced when flashing. The signs themselves usually read ‘School zone . . . 20 mph when flashing.’ And the flashing is typically calibrated to coincide with the hours when school is in session. When these signs are not flashing, the speed zone reverts to the other black and white speed signs on the public way.”