The petitioner challenged the New York City Traffic Regulations prohibiting anyone from operating on any street an advertising vehicle.
It is no requirement of equal protection that all evils of the same genus be eradicated or none at all.
Section 124 of the Traffic regulations of the City of New York provides: ‘No person shall operate, or cause to be operated, in any street an advertising vehicle; provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent the putting of business notices upon business delivery vehicles, so long as such vehicles are engaged in the usual business or regular work of the owner and not used merely or mainly for advertising.’ Appellant is engaged in a nation-wide express business. It operates about 1,900 trucks in New York City and sells the space on the exterior sides of these trucks for advertising. That advertising is mostly unconnected with its own business. Appellant was convicted and fined.
Does the New York City Traffic Regulations prohibiting anyone from operating on any street an advertising vehicle violate the Constitution?
No, the New York City Traffic Regulations prohibiting anyone from operating on any street an advertising vehicle does not violate the Constitution because the regulations do not contain the kind of discrimination against which equal protection affords protection.
Even casual observations from the sidewalks of New York will show that an ordinance which would forbid all advertising on vehicles would run into conflict with many interests, including some of the great metropolitan newspapers, which use that advertising extensively. If the City of New York should assume that display of any advertising on vehicles tends and intends to distract the attention of persons using the highways and to increase the dangers of its traffic, it is fully within its constitutional powers to forbid it all. The equal protection clause ceases to assure either equality or protection if it is avoided by any conceivable difference that can be pointed out between those bound and those left free.
The Court cannot say that the judgment of the State is not an allowable one. Yet if it is, the classification has relation to the purpose for which it is made and does not contain the kind of discrimination against the Equal Protection Clause affords protection. It is by such practical considerations based on experience rather than by theoretical inconsistencies that the question of equal protection is to be answered. The fact that New York City sees fit to eliminate from traffic this kind of distraction but does not touch what may be even greater ones in a different category, such as the vivid displays on Times Square, is immaterial. It is no requirement of equal protection that all evils of the same genus be eradicated or none at all.