The Return of a 55 mph Speed Limit?

The Return of a 55 mph Speed Limit?


Senator John Warner of Virginia has asked the Energy Department to look into setting a national speed limit that would best optimize the nation’s gasoline use. A 55 mph limit could save 167,000 barrels of oil each day.

In 1974, Congress mandated a 55 mph speed limit in part to combat the Arab oil embargo, so there is precedent for this kind of regulation.

But is it a good idea?

Are we at a point where we need to force Americans to conserve gas use?


  • Bob Aman

    No. Not all cars get their best gas mileage at 55 mph. Let consumers decide.

  • Jerry

    The only ones who will benefit from a 55 mph speed limit are the Speed Trap Cops with Radar guns behind every tree. This is just another way to generate revenue. It will not conserve fuel.

  • mw

    I only have one thing to say.

  • DavidL

    If Senator Warner thinks we use too much gas, let him switch to commuting exclusively by bicycle or bus. Till then Warner has no business telling me, or anybody, how fast we should drive.

  • J. Harden

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen that video mw. For years I’ve been writing Nugent asking him to shoot Hagar with a flaming arrow.

  • wj

    One thing that the Congressionally mandeated 55 mph limit accomplished last time for sure: respect for the law among drives (at least in the Western states) took a fall from which it has never recovered. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, routinely drives 10 mph over the posted limits. And that includes those driving big trucks, for whom the limit was 55 all along — and still is, although you will routinely see them going 65-70 down the Interstate.

    But hey, just because it was a bad idea before, that’s no reason not to try it again, right? Maybe you will get a different result this time. Oh wait, isn’t that the definition of . . . .

  • krabbie

    To all of the “Petrolium independence” folks. You want oil independence???? At least drive the limit. Show your patriotism. Help your wallet. Show your tailpipe to the Sheiks. Take an extra 15 seconds to get somewhere. To all of the “Need to Speed” folks. Keep on paying the price of your guzzler. For every 5mph above 60mph you lower your MPG 5%. So feed the Sheiks, the oil companies, feed the national tension on the road. I will be the “plug” in the slow lane flipping off the sheiks, oil companies and all of the guzzlers in my speed limit fashion. Choose!!!

  • old_school

    In WWII, not only was there a HARD speed limit, there was a rashion tickets for gas and tires. Think about what was done in the past during war efforts to

    a) keep the nation financially solvent
    b) conserve energies for priorities

    Does anyone else think we need to start truly conserving?

  • Mister EC

    If you just enforce the speed limit of 65 MPH that would save all the oil we need.
    I drive on the freeway most everyday. I carpool, too.
    My Honda Accord when driven at 80 MPH, and I just keep up with traffic, gets about 24 MPG. When I drive 65 MPH, I get 30 MPG.
    That is a 25% increase in fuel economy.
    Even most big rigs speed up and down the Altamont pass into and out of the Livermore Valley. This I see everywhere I go in the Bay Area. My belief is that this is the same practice throughout the United States. Enforce the laws! Do not punish those who drive the speed limit because it is the law. Punish those who break the law we now have.

    Do something that actually has a result. Do not play games for political points.

    >>Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.<<

  • Joe

    I am now averaging 50 mph down the highway to work every day and I started to notice my car’s mpg increasing from 30 mpg to nearly 35 mpg. Bring back the 55 mph nationwide speed limit? Absolutely! Let’s do it! It’s the only way out.

  • Dave

    55MPH costs the MORE and does NOT save lives!
    The added labor costs to business paying for employees being on the road 28% longer is far above the savings in gas. That added expense will ultimately result in increased prices of all goods and services.
    Many cars today are very aerodynamic and are geared to run at 75MPH. The loss in fuel economy is not as great for these cars as the proponents of the 55MPH limit would have us believe. However, even using their number of 27% drop in fuel economy, the labor cost is always higher than the fuel savings. Ex: A car that gets 25 MPG would get 31.75 MPG at 55 MPH (27%), Gas at $4.00 per gallon, Employee labor cost of $15 per hour, 100 mile trip.
    Driving at 75MPH will take 80 minutes and cost a total of $36.00 in LABOR and GAS costs.
    Driving at 55MPH will take over 109 minutes and cost a total of $39.87 in LABOR and GAS costs.
    The labor rates for most service industries are much higher than $15. If there are two or more employees riding in the car, the costs multiply accordingly.
    The saving lives argument is very suspect. The chances of being involved in an accident on the highway increases the longer you are actually on the highway. Being on the road longer also increases driver fatigue. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. The highway systems were designed for speeds higher than 55MPH. With vehicles taking 28% longer to complete their journey, highway congestion would also increase by 28%.
    The reason that National Highway death toll went down around 1974 was most likely due to new enforcement of seat belt laws and people driving less because of the higher gas prices and not the 55MPH Speed limit.
    Those whose time has no value should probably do the patriotic thing and stay at home. If they still want to drive 55 they can do so under the current system. Just don’t make everyone else along with the economy slow down with them!

  • gale

    Leave the 55 mph speed limit issue alone. Doesn’t a democracy mean anything. The majority of the people do not want to be told to drive 55 mph. Work on something else and quit trying to force laws down the Peoples throat!

  • sturno

    In the 70’s we had shortage at the pumps and therfore the gov’t needed to reduce consumption or face uprising. No body has said a thing about shortages this time. Let each person decide whether they want to drive fast and pay for it or drive slow and save the money. Thats right give Americans the freedom to chose.

  • Darryl

    Why on Earth would anybody wish reinstate a national speed limit on our highways?
    That’s not moving forward that’s going backwards! Do they honestly believe that in the year 2008 we should be setting speed limits that are the same as those in the 1950’s and 60’s?

    Interstates are the arteries of our country. Slow them down and you slow the economy down. And no, it will not effect fuel prices anyway. First because of the traffic created (it’s weaving in dense traffic that causes many accidents by the way), second because oil prices are rising mostly due to dollar inflation and our government overprinting money (oil prices are relatively stable compared to gold prices, notice they have both gone up in unison, if our dollar was as stable as gold oil would be $30 a barrel right now), and third because most people won’t follow a national 55mph speed limit! I’m sure you say that “well if we could just get people to slow down it might work”. Well it’s not reality and never will be so they need to stop lobbying to make laws that depend on something that will never happen!

    We should be making laws that optimize traffic flow and restore respect for the left lanes which would thin out traffic, reduce accidents, and help the economy by speeding up our internal transportation system. Overall, our speed limits are already under posted (never mind being 85th percentile, they aren’t even average speed) combined with cruising in left lanes and not using them as passing only lanes leads to cars weaving and therefore causing very dangerous traffic snarls.

    Our traffic flow is so inefficient it only takes a few cars to back things up because some people think they can drive in whatever lane they want at whatever speed and are bolstered in their belief by under posted limits. Think about it, there are ALWAYS these packs of traffic moving down the highway of cars scrunched together. There is plenty of room ahead but one guy is blocking the left lane and 5, 10, or even 15 cars are lined up behind him. If something goes wrong all these cars are packed like sardines which makes the accident that much worse. This also causes lots of road rage and people weaving, not to mention wasting fuel by all of the unnecessary braking to avoid a collision.

    The mere suggestion to implement old outdated policies that have been an absolute failure in the past, will cause far more harm than good, just like Prohibition and Jim Crow.

    The 55mph speed limit was also directly responsible for the immense amount of damage done to the American auto industry resulting in cars that were poor products both in terms of performance safety and gas usage. After all, they only had to be safe and have decent performance at 55mph. The answer to having safer more efficient cars isn’t to lower the bar so that the car of the day with it’s poor performance, safety and gas guzzling is acceptable, it’s creating the demand for a better car by raising the bar. 55mph set our auto industry back 20 years and made our cars the laughingstock of the motorized world and the industry still paying the price to this day because we are just now starting catch up, and no 55mph speed limit is going save us now.
    They also say they favor returning to the 55mph speed because it was “safe” and it “saved lives” and they attempt to make people feel guilty if they don’t support it. If driving 55mph is supposedly safe and according to some of them, saved 4,000 lives a year, then can they please explain to me why traffic fatalities were running between 50-60,000 annually during the years when the 55mph limit was most strictly enforced and started declining to today’s record low levels only after the 55mph limit was repealed? Also, even with the steady decline, why then am I still 66% more likely to die on the American Interstates for a given mileage driven than the German Autobahns, over half of which has no speed limit? The answer is our traffic flow system is total and absolute a mess, thanks in part to the generation that learned to drive during the 55mph era when driving skills plummeted along with the speed limits!

    If these people really want to make a difference then work with reality and make our roads fast and safe and optimize traffic flow, moving us forward. Here’s a few suggestions:

    1) Synchronize all of the urban traffic signals on the surface roads nationwide. Just imagine how many millions of barrels of oil a year that alone would save by eliminating all of the stop and go driving and urban congestion. A side benefit is that smog in the larger urban areas would be greatly diminished.

    2) Teach motorists how to DRIVE, teach them to do it WELL under all conditions and circumstances. This will go a long way into cutting our highway fatalities to even lower levels than they are now.

    3) Implement realistic but stringent fuel efficiency standards and stricter enforcement of ALL traffic laws, not just revenue generating speeding citations. A mandatory 30 day license suspension for first time offenses such as Texting While Driving would drive the point home in a hurry.

    I know that the above will not go over well with that group because first of all it makes common sense and it is readily doable. And secondly, I suspect that they really don’t give a whit about saving lives, trees, bears or anything else. I suspect that their intent no doubt is to have a measure of control over other people’s lives.

    Also, do they really believe that any of what they are trying to force down everybody’s throats will conserve a single drop of oil or stop climate change? Climate change is a natural occurrence and nothing we can do will stop it (If you don’t believe me, then ask the scientific community why the polar ice caps on Mars are melting…I’m pretty sure that humans didn’t have anything to do with that). Secondly, every barrel of oil that we don’t buy goes right onto the world market and into the hands of countries that may not have as effective fuel economy or emission regulations as the United States so in actuality, if by chance they did get their way, they would actually be contributing to the problem, not solving it!

    Sorry to break it to you guys but gas prices will likely never be in the sub $1.00 a gallon range again since we have proven to Big Oil that we are more than willing to pay more than that no matter how ridiculously low you want the speed limits set. Also, don’t forget the wonderful field day of speeding tickets (shored up by new technologies such as speed cameras) and jacked up insurance rates that will take money out of the hands of the consumer and put it in bureaucracies and large corporations which will only serve to reduce consumer spending and hurt the economy even more.