24 thoughts on “The Need For Less Speed”

    1. I still remember the 55mph Carter speed limit. NOBODY obeyed it. Basically it lowered the average freeway speed from 70 to 65.

  1. The problem with the nerf squad is they ask the cost of action x but can’t contemplate the cost of not doing it.

    The types the propagate this type of nonsense is incapable of long-term abstract reasoning and base everything on a self-centered sense of fear.

    1. And thus, they can’t conceive of why anyone would want to do x. But then I’ve never heard of someone saying “Let’s ban x because I don’t do x and can’t think of any reason anyone would want to do x.” It’s like unicorns in the mist.

      1. That’s pretty much the entire argument against human spaceflight in a nutshell. The Proxmirian argument.

  2. It may be hard for younger people to remember how much rebellion the “drive 55” laws enflamed. CB radio, “Smoky and the Bandit” or “Cannonball Run” movies. C.W McCall’s “Convoy” and related pop songs. Dodge automobile commercials lampooning a fat sheriff. A James Bond movie that mirrored the fat sheriff character. A cultural default of respect for the law, law enforcement, and “consent of the governed” were blown away — like the dandelion growing beside the blacktop road.

    1. Well, they can’t remember it at all, because they didn’t experience it. But they should be made aware of it. I remember in 1994 when the Republicans took Congress for the first time in four decades, and one of the first things they did was get rid of the double nickel. That still stands out to me as a major positive outcome from an election (compared to most of the other stuff they did, and didn’t do).

    2. Now, they would make movies celebrating our glorious suffering and noble degradation that sacrifice for Mother Gaia has earned us, what a blessing. Things may suck now but be assured that sometime in the future, the climate wont ever change and all of our sacrifices will be worth it.

    3. The American car was a big, heavy beast that could cruise at 65 MPH for hours and hours down the Interstates. Many of them actually had automatic transmissions that you could hear laboring at 55 MPH as I remember — the transmission just wanted you to go faster. Then some dimwit had the idea it would save gas — Voodoo…

  3. Between LA and Vegas, once you are out of Victorville, the gas station options are limited, but none are a 15 minute detour off freeway….

    There is Barstow, Baker, Primm and Jean…Gas stations conveniently next to the freeway in all of them.

    And what sort of idiot relies on the MTE (miles to empty) display when crossing a freaking DESERT?

    1. I appreciate pointing out such obvious fallacies with this article for the benefit of those of us unfamiliar with the territory out in that area, and pointing out the lunacy of trusting a fuel gauge when crossing a desert.

      I, for one, had a hard time getting past the idea of driving slower saving on the actual PRICE OF A GALLON OF GAS, let alone the complete fallacy that “the maximum efficiency is the lowest engine speed in the highest gear.” If that were true, you could just put in a second or third overdrive that ran the engine at 1,000 RPM at 70 MPH. Too bad that pesky coefficient of drag is part of the equation. Most engines are actually MORE efficient at higher engine RPMs because they’re burning at peak efficiency and torque; there’s always a sweet spot.

      And then the same bright engineer who made that statement claimed that it’s impossible to gauge the best speed to drive because of the factors of wind, luggage racks, etc.

      Our last road trip, I think I set the cruise at 70-75 down the 55 MPH two-lanes of rural Wisconsin, and 78 on the 70 MPH interstates and 4-lanes. Did we use a little more fuel than if I had set it at 62 and 75, respectively? Probably. Did we make the 5 hour trip in two 2-hour bursts plus a 30 minute lunch? Yes. Did we have to listen to our 4-month-old scream at all during the trip? Nope, sure didn’t, because we never stayed in the car longer than his short tolerance window, and the increased speed meant we could make it in only one stop instead of two (or, God help us, three or four…).

      1. let alone the complete fallacy that “the maximum efficiency is the lowest engine speed in the highest gear.”

        Well, some vehicles actually do operate that way, like the Honda VX which had a shift indicator that lit up as soon as your engine RPM rose to the point it stopped shaking your seat. We all drive those, right?

        1. Having to worry about the gaseous vapors getting into or coming out of a VX gets on my nerves. – Kim Jong-nam

  4. Week before last, I drove 750 miles on a business trip. Door to door time was 11 hours 50 minutes counting all stops and the occasional traffic slowdowns. I dialed in the cruise control at speed limit +5 (75-80) and averaged 63 MPH. Had the hated 55 MPH speed limit been in effect, the average speed would have been less than 50 MPH and the trip would have taken over 15 hours. Fatigue during those 3 extra hours would have made for a much more dangerous trip. If I had broken the trip into 2 days, the hotel bill would have vastly overshadowed any potential savings in gasoline. I figure my time is worth something.

    1. I did a number of road trips in the early 1980s during the height of the attempt to rigidly enforce the 55 limit. Driving across places like Wyoming or Nevada was excruciatingly slow. Worse was the paranoia about trying to keep the speed down, when there was a natural tendency to drive the speed for which the roads were designed– 70 to 80 mph. Now that the limits match the design, the drive is much more enjoyable.

      I did get one speed ticket during that time– $10 cash in Fremont County Wyoming for doing 70 (I was going down a long grade on nearer 80 west of Jeffrey City), and it never appeared on my record. I’ve always wondered if the deputy just pocketed it…

      (At the end of the 55, Montana tried to resume their “Reasonable and Prudent” speed limit, but that got shot down a couple of years later by the state courts when a Libertarian got nailed doing well over 100, and argued that enforcement was too subjective, depending on the citing officer, where a fixed limit would be enforced equally. I think that’s when I gave up on Libertarians, realizing they had devolved into Sex/Drugs/Rock-n-Roll elitists more concerned with being “right” than actually winning or having positive effects.)

      1. He did you a favor. Assuming that he gave the fine to his controlling authority, is it a corrupt act to not report the infraction to your insurance company?

  5. ” “…coping with “Putin’s price hike” is better driving habits. — Judith Lewis Mernit”

    I think the appropriate British term is “sod off.”

    And, no, I won’t wear a mask. Don’t get in my face and you’re not likely to “pass away prematurely”.

    1. I think the appropriate British term is “sod off.”
      And, no, I won’t wear a mask. Don’t get in my face and you’re not likely to “pass away prematurely”.

      This form of life philosophy fits in well with my theory of American Culture, i.e. life in the United States 1640-1950, esp during the westward expansion from 1836-1890. If you grew up in the US from say, the cultural neutral pole of Indiana/Ohio and move from there either west or east you notice a couple of things. First as you move east people tend to want to live closer together and in the ultimate form, as life along the East coast, you’ll notice how rude people can be towards each other. If you study your history you’ll note that these more populated areas of the country were also among the first to establish constabularies and gun control measures and are highly urbanized. As you move west from the pole, you notice the opposite. People tend to live further apart, tend to rely less on constabularies and were traditionally armed, re: the Wild West. You’ll also note how friendly and tolerant people in the western areas are (exclude the extreme west coast, those are east coastal transplants). My theory is closely related to Darwin. Those that were rude and tended to pick fights don’t last long in areas that were more heavily armed. For the same reason that knights of old were chivalrous for the most part. It was otherwise just too easy to get killed.

      My cite; from one of the friendliest towns you’ll ever visit in the contiguous US:


      1. My theory is that in Small Groups there is a positive incentive towards basic courtesy. In a small town you will have to deal with the same people again and again — screw somebody and not only they but the entire village will remember. In a Large City you can lie, cheat, steal and be a flaming arsehole because there “…will always be a new sucker to abuse”.

  6. It’s not just transportation. These Energy Star ratings on washing machines and dryers and dishwashers assume there’s no cost to taking 90 minutes to do a job that used to be done in 12.

  7. The 55 mph speed limit was the “mask” of the 1970s. People accepted it as a way for the nation to cope with the “energy crisis.” But after Reagan ended the energy crisis by abolishing price controls on oil (which happened very abruptly), the government switched to emphasizing its backup argument for 55 mph: “55 Saves Lives.” In other words, it played on an unsupported assertion of the safety aspect of 55 mph.

    This was the opposite of the truth. Speed limits were, way back when, established by measuring how fast people drove on a given road, and setting the limit at 5 mph less than the speed at which the 90th percentile driver traveled. This worked because people would travel as fast as the road safely allowed, and the limit established would produce a tight distribution of speeds around that limit. Since the accident rate and consequences is related to the difference in speeds within the traffic, this approach minimized accident rates on highways.

    When the 55 mph speed limit was imposed, the US automobile fatality rate increased for the first time in history. All of that was on the highways. (Most of the automobile fatalities in the US were on surface streets, not highways.)

    That rate eventually reversed as a result of several factors unrelated to the speed limit, but after a while people grew tired of 55 mph, and it was ultimately abolished. There were dire predictions of carnage on the highway. I remember Bill Handel on KFT ranting about that. Nothing of the kind happened, of course. 55 had never saved lives, but it did waste them in terms of unnecessary time added to travel.

    One of my colleagues at FAA had worked for some time at the National Highway Safety Administration. I asked him if they knew that 55 wasn’t safer, and in fact was a safety hazard. He said that yes, they did, but kept up the campaign and the regulation because they thought it was virtuous. Same with fuel economy standards, which they know also increase fatality rates.

    I rather think they did it because they could.

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