Everytime Oil Hits $100, We Say It's Time To Drive 55

jimmy carter speed limit

It's Jimmy Carter Appreciation Week; yesterday I liked his sweaters, and today his speed limits. Every time oil hits a Benji per barrel, I recycle our post about why the 55 MPH speed limit was such a good idea. They just reduced the limits in Spain, what about in America?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 the first time around:

"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"

I am not so sure, and municipal governments sure could use the money these days. Better in their pockets than in Saudi Arabian and Libyan ones.