55 MPH: It's time to bring it back.


A year ago we did a survey where we asked if it was time that we should all drive 55 again. While a plurality said yes, the majority said no and the comments were vociferously against it. Perhaps it is time to look at this again; much has changed in a year. What are some of the benefits of driving 55? Perhaps ask your candidates their opinions?

It could save a lot of fuel. Some estimates indicate up to 5%; In 1983, by which time many people were ignoring it, it saved 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel, or 2.2% of the total fuel used. Oil was a horrible $ 20 per barrel.

It could save a lot of lives. Speed kills. A study examined the impact of higher travel speeds on US rural interstates after the repeal in November 1995 of the national speed limit. Researchers found states that had increased their speed limits to 75 mph (120 km/h) experienced a shocking 38 per cent increase in deaths per million vehicle miles than expected, compared to deaths in those states that did not change their speed limits. States that increased speed limits to 70 mph (112 km/h) showed a 35 per cent increase in fatalities. (Canada Safety Council)


It will reduce the cost of cars and could save Detroit With a lower speed limit one certainly doesn't have much need for a big honking hemi, and probably you don't need so many airbags and so much crash protection. Cars could be lighter and cheaper, take up less space, and Detroit could quit worrying about CAFE standards.

It could solve our infrastructure problems and save on taxes. As we noted in an earlier post, "Transportation officials know many of the nation’s 600,000 bridges are in need of repair or replacement. About one in eight has been deemed "structurally deficient." Lighter vehicles travelling at slower speeds do far less damage to our roads and bridges. Design loads and lane widths could be adapted to the smaller vehicles. Three lane highways might become four lane; more capacity for the price of a can of paint.


It would spur innovation and investment in alternative transport if trains go four times as fast as cars, there is a lot more incentive to use them.


It would promote innovation in urban design and densification of the existing suburbs Parking lots could be scaled down, buildings built more closely together, America could begin to look more like Europe. Although most commuters probably don't move at 55 mph now, it is still likely that people might tend to want to live closer to work with a lower speed limit.

In fact, the only reasons I can think of for NOT reducing the speed limit were captured in the comments in the post a year ago:

"If your goal is to destroy any hope of a green movement among the general populace in great numbers, by all means, do this. It's political suicide to screw around with the laws where the penalty for breaking the law encourages over-enforcement by over zealous police officers forced by their municipality to increase revenues. Speed traps will become overly popular, and good solid global warming initiatives will be nuked out the back door by people running on platforms of 'rabble rabble FREEDOM rabble rabble SPEED LIMIT INCREASE' etc."

"It doesn't matter how many people are given tickets each day; it doesn't deter everyone else from going fast. And it shouldn't. 55 mph speed limits are unrealistic and only cause problems.Also, if you think there's going to be a revolution in the way cities are built and that cars should become slower...you're out of your mind. Unbelievable the things some people think up. Geez"

The only reason not to do it is that there is no political will. But perhaps times have changed; it is an election year. Can this be made into an issue?