I Can't Drive 55... (vehicles, red light, German, motorway)
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This is simply something I wrote as a matter of opinion. Take it or leave it but feel free to make yourself heard. Enjoy.
You may recall during the summer when gasoline prices spiked and approached $5 per gallon in some places, all the tree-hugging nutjobs and politicians to whom their strings are attached began screaming bloody murder. Amidst their idiotic and incoherent blathering was the suggestion that now was a better time than ever to bring back the National Speed Limit.
For those of you who don't remember, from 1973 to 1995 the highest speed limit allowed on any type of federally-funded road in the United States was 55 mph. That is, of course, if the states wanted federal highway funds. Sure you could sign a road at 70 mph but then you wouldn't see a cent in maintenance funds for your Interstates. It's easy to see why states bowed to the pressure.
It began in 1973 during the final full year of the Nixon administration and at the start of the Arab Oil Embargo. At the time, it was seen as a way to increase fuel efficiency in a gas shortage and to reduce fatalities. And it worked....for a very short while.
It didn't take long for drivers to realize that 55 was pretty damn slow and people took to speeding. The limit was unpopular enough to have the hit song "I Can't Drive 55" written about it by rocker Sammy Hagar. Naturally, Hagar was struck with the inspiration to write the song while he was being cited by a New York State Trooper for going 61 mph in a 55 on an empty stretch of rural New York Interstate in the early morning hours. Given Hagar's prior citations for speeding that continue to this day, I'd say he was definitely behaving himself.
To further discourage speeding, the Fed mandated (starting in September, 1979) that all cars sold in the United States have a speedometer that read no higher than 85 mph and have 55 clearly marked. The restriction didn't last and was repealed in March, 1982 although many cars sold in the U.S. up to the 1995 model year continued to have their speedometers indicate 55 in a stand-out color (usually red).
In fact, according to the Federal Government, the same entity that forced the double-nickel limit upon American drivers, rated that disobedience of the NSL was around 83% on rural interstates (meaning only 17 out of every 100 cars was going 55). And when it was all said and done, independent research estimated that the total fuel savings might have been no greater than 0.5% annually.
For you non math types, here is a hypothetical scenario. If all vehicles in a state in the year 1985 were to hypothetically consume 1,625,000,000 gallons of fuel (12.5 gallons per week, 2.5 million cars in the state) your savings would be a mere 8,125,000 gallons. Now that may sound like a lot but that's enough to send each of those 2.5 million cars (at 22 mpg) a mere 0.15 miles extra a year. That's 792 feet further...less than three football fields.
It was not until 22 years after its inception that the National Speed Limit was repealed (in 1995) and the government handed control of speed limits back to the states. Since then, Texas has even instated an 80 mph speed limit on rural sections of Interstate 10 in West Texas, a trend Utah is following as an experiment. Some people may call this crazy but the maximum speed limit in Europe is 130 kph (80 mph) barring, of course, the sections of the German Autobahn that do not have speed restrictions. Keep in mind, that Europe is much more densely packed than West Texas. There's some food for thought.
The 55 mph speed limit is an antiquated thought process that effectively turned America into a nation of lawbreakers. Modern cars are far safer and more fuel efficient than they were in 1973 and this notion of losing 10% fuel efficiency for every 10 mph over 60 you go is baloney as well. My 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe is rated for 24 highway but while cruising at 75 mph, I got 25.7 mpg and that was with the A/C on in the middle of the desert in June! I dropped it to 70 and my mileage dropped also to a mere 20 mpg...hmm.
Honestly, keep the speed limits where they are (but bring Oregon up to 70 for God's sake). If people want to drive 55 and feel better about themselves, let them do it. Just make sure they stay in the right hand lane where they belong.
Last edited by rosecitywanderer; 04-28-2009 at 03:43 PM..
What was really a pisser for me about the 55 mph limit was that I'd bought a brand new 1972 BMW 2002 which got better fuel economy at 70-75 mph than at 55 mph.
As the car was designed to "come on the cam" and breathe at around 68 mph in 4th gear, you'd notice that it ran with a much lighter pressure on the throttle at that speed. At 55, it was way off the cam and labored in 4th gear on every rising grade on the highway ... enough so that it dropped the fuel mileage from 28-29 mpg down to 25 mpg at 55 mph.
If I'd have known that the 55 mph limit was coming, I'd have not sold my 1602 BMW or my 1300cc Alfa ... both were very happy and smooth at 55 mph and got better fuel economy at that speed.
I spent most of the first years of the 55 limit commuting on my 250 Ducati (88-90 mpg) or a 750 Ambassodor MotoGuzzi (55-58 mpg) but winter weather turned me back to my BMW ... and then, my 1971 MB 220D (32-33 mpg, but it wasn't fast enough to even be rated as "slow". Some said you could time it's 0-60 with a sundial) which was adequate to maintain 55-60 mph. Seeking out even better fuel economy, I went to the Audi and Peugeot diesels, which could get into the 40 mpg range. And got serious about aviation, where I could travel to my clients in a lot less time.
I vividly remember those dark days of the 55 speed limit. I remember my dad's words when it came into being. He said something like '...enjoy these last few days of freedom. Once the government takes something away from you, you'll almost never get it back'. Fortunately, after 20 years of that nonsense, it was repealed. Even during those 55 days, I never drove the speed limit and few others did also. I had one state trooper tell me that you can't effectively enforce a law that people don't basically believe in.
It was meant as a feel-good law for politicians back in the '70s. That was our energy policy - pretty sad.
And yes, the video for 'I can't drive 55' is just awesome - one of my favorites and speaks to many car enthusists like me.
Far more fuel is wasted in the cities stuck in traffic.
There is a story going around that the former mayor of London, the anti car Ken Livingstone, had traffic lights synced to slow traffic down in an attempt to make public transport look more attractive.
This obsession with speed that politicians have when it comes to many automotive debates is really annoying.
They can measure it so they can enforce and penalise it.
Great posting rosecity!
Thanks, Jezer. Don't get me started on the lack of traffic light synchronization in the Portland Metro area. For such an environmentally-aware area, the number of red lights I'll stop at in a row borders on criminal. If I read correctly, you folks in England are getting a similar restriction with a 21st-Century twist. Correct me if I'm wrong but they have lowered the maximum speed limits on dual-carriageway motorways over there from 70 to 60 mph and have fitted a large number of new speed cameras. That's pretty terrible, I have to admit.
At home, Interstate 84 runs from downtown Portland out into the rural eastern parts of Oregon. In Portland, the limit is 55 so people go 60 to 65. In the far suburbs, the limit rises to 60 so people go 70 or so and when the limit rises to 65, they all accelerate to 75 to 80. I just can't help but wonder if they'd increased the limit back to 75 when they returned the control to the states if we'd really have this problem as Oregon's highest speed limit prior to 55 was actually 75 mph. It's been 65 since the end of the NSL.
Originally Posted by HighPlainsDrifter73
you can't effectively enforce a law that people don't basically believe in.
Smart trooper. If only the politicians would see it this way, also.
Rose- dual-carriageways and motorways are still at 70mph for cars but there are possible plans to reduce some single carriageways which are at 60 to 50 on the grounds of safety and fuel saving.
This country is Speed Camera Central! I'll save the rant for another day.
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