Nat'l Max. Speed Limit/ Drive 55

Don’t laugh but the way I always viewed this law was that the U.S. citizenry was being “asked” to make a sacrifice for the good of the country. Historically there many other times when sacrifices were asked of us when the country was in “crisis” but I sure can’t think of any since this law was repealed in the 90s. (Unless you count GWB asking us to go out and spend money.) What does that say about our leadership? What does it say about us?

I think it sort of begs the question. 55 mph made absolutely no sense in much of the country, rural states are sparsely populated and the law was widely ignored.

Whether or not the sacrifice was beneficial or not (I recall reading somewhere that much/ some of the rationing during WW 2 was unnecessary) but that’s not really the conversation I was hoping to have.

Well, they’re related. I’m willing to sacrifice (hypothetically) if it actually helps. I’m probably less interested in a mere gesture.

ETA. Also, the US is not experiencing any crises indicating the necessity of a sacrifice.

Obligatory theme music for the thread.

Second choice.

I don’t see how you can determine ‘what it says about us’ to refuse to make a ‘sacrifice’ without saying how necessary the sacrifice is.

The other thing about 55 like a lot of other energy use-related policies of that time (and up to now) is it falls very obviously unevenly. Speed limits are still 55 on some highways in the congested East, and only exceeded by the average traffic flow by say 8-10mph. That’s still way below the limit on Interstates in parts of the West, 80. There’s typically a lot further to go out there. In the limit it can actually be the stereotype of people who live in Manhattan asking “what does it say about ‘us’ that ‘we’ are not willing to spend a little more time going 55” when ‘we’ is really somebody else.

[QUOTE=I’m willing to sacrifice (hypothetically) if it actually helps. I’m probably less interested in a mere gesture.

Perhaps that’s my answer. We’ve become too cynical.

My recollection of the 55 mph period was that people who cared about better gas mileage and drove 55 were mainly in small economical cars to begin with. The nose in the air Caddy drivers just sailed past at 70 mph, gas fumes swirling in their wake.

I could be biased.


Well that’s the thing. The 55 mph was an arbitrary number, and depending on the gearing, it’s very likely the large cars of the day got worse mileage at 55 than 65 or 70. Engines make their most efficient running at a specific point in their torque curve and RPMs. All of this was pointed out in congressional testimony, but it didn’t matter. One of the classic dumb exercises in government “one size fits all” legislation.

That’s not cynicism, that’s being pragmatic. People see through a lot of the BS, they aren’t so gullible these days.

I don’t get this attitude. What possible difference does it make if someone is driving in a rural or urban area???

The purpose is still the same.

Places in the west are very spread apart. Places in the east are very congested, cities are compressed. Drivers in the west have to go farther, but if drivers in the east think it’s a small sacrifice to drive 55 they are not considering the wide expanses in the west because it doesn’t impact them.

Speed limits must be “one size fits all.” Otherwise, you’d have chaos. Fords can go 65, Audis 60, Toyotas 55… The idea was to find the speed that maximizes the overall average fuel efficiency.

It also saved a lot of lives. (Per another thread, I won’t define “a lot” specifically, but one study seems to suggest over 1,000 lives per year were lost when speed limits were raised from 55 to 65.)

It wasn’t a bad idea. It was unpopular enough that, in our democracy, it was untenable. We’ll make only the sacrifices we choose to make.

With a healthy nod toward the discussion that the national speed limit was a ridiculous and short-sighted effort, I would only ask have you not looked at the bullshit that’s come from the government in the wake of 9/11? In this case, we’ve been asked not only to endure absurd security theater measures, but to have our rights stripped away and to have even greater government power forced upon us in the name of The War on Terror.

I’d say that this says the same thing such “calls for sacrifice” in the face of “crisis” always says – the those in power will abuse every chance they get to increase their power and the populace will usually meekly go along with it.

Just as obviously as you can’t have a different speed limit for Toyota’s and Fords on the same road, you can have different speed limits on different kinds of roads, as is true everywhere.

But aside from blindingly obvious points like either of those, there is in fact no fundamental reason the speed limit on interstates has to be the same in NJ and ID. The limits are now far apart in those states and manifestly no ‘chaos’ results specifically from that difference.

As to highway death rates they will tend to increase with speed. But death rate also tends to increase with choosing to leave your house v. staying there. It’s a trade off. One thousand lives a year in a 300+mil person country is far from a conclusive argument for a 55mph Interstate speed limit in Idaho.

On optimum mileage that’s somewhat obscure and dependent on which cars when. My 1967 VW got best mileage around 40, at which speed I’d sometimes drive it to reach the next gas station out West in the middle of nowhere; but I’d generally cruise around 55-60, this was back in the day of the 55 NMSL. In my BMW 328i (gasoline) now I’ve gotten best mileage on tanks driven on 65mph interstates (where I go 65-70, almost 40 mpg average of the best several tank-fulls, under my light foot in summer conditions, slowing down by lifting the accelerator not putting on the brakes, coasting downhill in eco-pro mode, transmission goes to neutral, as fast the car wants to go traffic allowing, turbocharger boost tuner raises mpg a bit over stock besides adding hp) than it does on 50-55 secondary highways (more like 36-7 best several tanks). Part of that is occasional slow down or even a few stops at towns, flooring it every once in a while to pass on two lane roads, but I doubt that car actually does better at 57 than 67. Some modern cars mileage curves still slope down in that range but not necessarily and it can be pretty flat. You do give up some mpg on 80mph roads though in almost any car. The original estimate of real savings from NMSL was IIRC order of 1% (65 v 55 didn’t include higher speeds, though not modern cars either).

But time is also worth money and it’s like lots of nattering about energy use. If you want people to use less, tax it more: say it with prices. If you can’t get that done politically don’t whine about (everyone else’s) lack of moral fiber for not doing stuff that’s not in their perceived interest that you might not do in their shoes either. That’s not personally directed at anyone but ‘what does it say about us?’ (you might as well say ‘think of the children!’ :)) is not useful IMO to persuade people. It tends to be tuned out.

You’ve obviously never driven in the western states. They are absolutely huge, and in some places you can see 75 miles in any direction practically. The road is reasonably flat, traffic nonexistent. There isn’t anything in front of you for 35 miles, etc. They can’t even grow sagebrush in some of those areas. People who live in rural areas might drive 150 miles just to go shopping, or they did at one time.

Most people would settle into 80 or 90 on good road during daylight hours, maybe a bit more. 55 seems glacial after that, almost like you could get out and run along side if one wanted. It was a really dumb law and made “criminals” out of a lot of people.

To my mind “reasonable and prudent” made more sense. It gives law enforcement more latitude, or should anyway. Drivers should slow down at night, on bad roads, during rainstorms and winter/icy conditions, but they don’t.

I agree with the idea that more sparsely populated areas should have higher speed limits, but this is incorrect. Once you’ve got a car in it’s top gear, you aren’t going to get better fuel mileage by revving the engine higher unless you’re lugging it. Just about every vehicle is able to get into top gear by 45 or so, and going faster just means that you’re using more gas in order to push wind.

Lots of reasons to go faster, but a theoretical fuel savings isn’t one of them.

I got to enjoy this in my teens and early 20s (started driving in 1988). Wikipedia:

I sure don’t remember any changes in Indiana until the repeal in 1995, and even then I got a warning for speeding on I-65 for going 70-75 in 1997 (most of it is 70 everywhere except in cities–beware the 55 near the Ohio River bridge, however!).

I think the law was pretty moronic.