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-   -   Re-Institute National 55mph? (

Bror Jace 07-12-2008 08:55 AM

Re-Institute National 55mph?
Anyone else a news junkie? I've seen a couple times on Bill O'Reilly's show where the topic has come up ... should we re-institute a national 55mph speed limit? He had a poll (75% of respondents said "no") and it also came up as a topic of discussion when Laura Ingraham guest-hosted for him Friday, July 11th. I believe the idea is being floated elsewhere, too.

I'm of two minds on this. Yes, I'd love to see other people slow down (I rarely exceed 65mph anymore) and when I do it is often from "peer pressure" from my fellow motorists whizzing by me at 70+mph. I find myself speeding up (sometimes subconsciously) to reduce the speed disparity between myself and the majority of traffic.

However, I'm also a freedom-loving person (with a strong libertarian streak). I don't like the idea of more laws ... especially when the current laws aren't consistently enforced AND Federal laws applied to all the states equally makes little sense when driving differences in those states differ enormously.

Years ago, before we had 65mph in certain places, automotive analysts thought that there would be no problem if the speed limit was modestly increased and enforced at the higher rate. Many (most?) people traveled that fast (and then some) anyway.

And, I have to think that if people just put a little more air in their tires, stopped idling in parking lots for no reason and cease using retail drive-through windows, they'd save a lot more gas than if they merely slowed down 10mph on the thruways/expressways. Plus, I expect that the auto industry is really going to take the stops out and go more aero in the coming years ... I'm talking smooth, super efficient bodies minus roof racks and plus rear wheel well skirts. This will help reduce the disparity between drag at 55mph and 65mph.

I mean, we last tried this in the 70s ... when we (as a nation) were driving mechanical dinosaurs shaped like bricks. Hasn't technology and automotive design come a long while since then?

Please feel free to interject some real efficiency into the discussion ... data and person experience of all types welcome. :)

Lazarus 07-12-2008 09:14 AM

Here's a interesting thread on the subject. There some good studies that show that it won't work unless you have cameras that enforce it.

homeworkhome53 07-12-2008 11:36 AM

You can design anthing you want but it will take years to turn over the vehicles already on the road. I know many people who hang onto their vehicle until the wheels fall off (ecomodders comes to mind). Also many people who make a good living who have never owned a new vehicle they only buy from the secondary market. When I lived in Pa the average car was 10-20 years old in some communities. Having it available is nice but implamentation is years in the future. Speed limits are available now. Do we have years? The only thing that is encouraging them now is fuel cost. If you have a paid for vehicle it's a lot easier to come up with $4+ a gallon gas than if you have a car payment. I heard this argument yesterday. When you factor in the cost of a new fe vehicle he's still ahead of the game for a long time dirving his old car. One thing I have noticed is this has made a lot of people slow down. Slowing down saves a lot of fuel more than tire air pressure and not idling.

trikkonceptz 07-12-2008 12:03 PM

The current speed limits are not strickly enforced, dropping them will only piss off the masses making things worse. Everyone would think its being done to increase speeding tickets in order to raise revenue.

I hold the opposite extreme. I say autobahn the hwy, no speed limit, instead dedicate lanes for speed ranges, enforce those, plus educate consumers on how to drive. Education will trump laws. Once I learned the benefits of driving slower I did, not only because I'm saving gas, but now I am more relaxed, my blood pressure has dropped, so I am seeing other benefits to slowing down. Which came from eductaing myself on the benefits of slower speeds.

I mean there is no easy answer, car manufacturers will not have our answers for another 3 years minimum, to fill that gap we need to LEARN to drive smarter, so when these vehicles arrive we will use them optimally.

webshowpro 07-12-2008 12:17 PM

55 is short sighted
55mph is old person thinking. The old people who lived through the 70's think, "Hey we've lived through this before, lets do 55 again and everything will be alright".

This is a very short sighted answer. First, the cars have changed significantly, the driving style has changed, and the technology available has changed.
55 would do very little to improve mileage. People will still drive stupidly. A policy like that won't solve anything if people still sprint to get up to 55, then slam on the brakes at the last second at lights.

So much has changed since the 1970's that we really need to think beyond, he our parents and grandparents did this it will work for us too.

There are a lot more cars on the road, and more freeways, and more traffic lights. Driving at highway speeds or 70+ mph in most modern cars does not impact mileage as much as the stop and go of traffic lights in town, and people stupidly sprinting out of the gate only to stop hard a little ways down the road.

Do really improve the situation we need to:
  1. Educate to conserve MOMENTUM - braking is bad. this could be done with more road markings around lights and intersections:
    • Have designated "coast zones" before lights and stop signs. Enforce a policy that you must coast on red, or if stopped traffic is in front.
    • Have a "no wake" zone after the stop - his one would be harder to enforce but basically have a zone after the intersection where acceleration is limited. Maybe even mechanically using rumble strips like they lay down in construction zones.
    to go along with these changes, we'll need #2 to prevent
  2. Intelligent stop lights - that sense traffic to minimize time spent idleling.. Perhaps have people manually monitor lights and control them during peak times. Most cities have traffic centers anyway.... Think air traffic control - the controllers could probably control the flow of several lights, their job would mainly be to "tweak" the timings if they see too large of backups starting to form. communication with specific drivers would also be kinda cool either through mandated radios or through large signs... "TYK-765 merge right and speed up 10MPH"
  3. Universally allow right turns on red.
  4. Allow "rolling stops" at stop signs. If you are coasting to a stop sign you can safely judge when to go through.
  5. Signs marking "coast zones" to alert traffic that people may be slowing down w/out brakes, and to alert people where is will be a good place to coast.
  6. Increase the length of turning lanes, so traffic can flow better around cars waiting to turn. Always have right turn lanes. (I hate being behind someone turning left from the right lane on a two lane road that allows left turns from the right lane!)
  7. Limited enforcement during peak times. If cars are moving along at 85 - let them, if a single idiot is crusing by them at 100+ let him go, usually traffic is too dense for people to try that anyway. Singling out a single car from the herd does make everyne slow down, usually too much and causes major congestion and literally tons of wasted fuel. If someone does cause an accident by driving recklessly, increase the penalties.
  8. More adoption of 4 day work weeks. Here some ways to encourage it on a larger scale:
    • tax breaks, on companies to encourage it.
    • commuters of 20 miles or more round trip must be allowed to opt for a 4 day work week, or be allowed to tele-commute at least one day.
    • make 4 day work weeks mandatory for all companies with more than 20 full time employees. If they choose to opt-out the company must pay for extra day of fuel.
A few more thoughts on this:
There are a couple places on my commute that when I coast going 55 I speed up to 65-70. I would not want to get pulled over for coasting. Why penalize efficient cars?

If anything it will discourage people from buying the efficient ones, and give them a crutch to continue buying large wasteful ones.

Personally my mileage does not significantly change if I am going 55 or 65. I am sure it impacts others much more; but my point is why penalize efficient cars, and in effect make they less efficient when considering time into the equation.

Bottom line is this is a very complex problem and a one-size fits all band-aid really won't help much, and in fact may hurt things more. The old folks in DC, and at al levels of gov't need to actually think, rather than blindly follow history.

trikkonceptz 07-12-2008 12:40 PM


Originally Posted by webshowpro (Post 43374)
Personally my mileage does not significantly change if I am going 55 or 65. I am sure it impacts others much more; but my point is why penalize efficient cars, and in effect make they less efficient when considering time into the equation.

I agree with your entire post ... it's awesome and wish we had city planners here that could start thinking this way.

My question to you is; Do you have ascangauge? I see your statement several times within other posts and wonder what you guys are driving to not notice a difference in miles with a 10mph speed variation.

In my case, the swing is 5mpg for me which is significant.

dcb 07-12-2008 01:08 PM

If people keep insisting that I have to speed because the speed differential would otherwise be "unsafe", then I will be in favor of a national 55 mph speed limit in the US. Nixon got the first one passed, and it was in response to the current energy "crisis", then retained for safety.

How about more stringent licensing requirements like they have in Germany?

webshowpro 07-12-2008 03:38 PM

trikkonceptz, I just have the "Instant" MPG on the standard display, which obviously fluctuates depending on a lot of variables. When I drive my goal is usually to keep it at or above 35 MPG.

I don't find it significant harder to do while maintaining my speed around 60 or around 70. Though I know this has a lot ot do with the car I drive, which is a '99 Corvette. It coasts extremely well, so if I gradually get to 70 it is pretty easy to keep going around 70. I usually try to gradually get to 70 then glide until I get to 60 and repeat.

When I slow down too much, the big V8 sips a lot of fuel to get it back to a comfortable speed, so if I try to stay at 55-60, my acceration-coast cycle is much shorter, and as a result I'm on the big V8 more often, which the ultimately costs me mileage.

I notice that when I am in 6th gear, and cruising at 80MPH, I usually sit at just under 1500 RPM, at 70 it is about 1100 RPM and 60 around 1000 RPM. So based on that, I can get a pretty good sense of where the sweet spot for my particular car is.

I am sure in a perfect world on a flat road with no traffic a 10mph difference would be more noticeable, but for me he other variables present make that speed difference negligible on my net mileage.

Frank Lee 07-12-2008 03:57 PM

For the vast majority of the U.S. fleet, speed makes a significant difference on fe. 55 would definitely work.

SuperTrooper 07-12-2008 04:30 PM

The general concept that slowing down saves fuel is inarguable. The problem is not enough people would buy into it because they have no NEED to. The 70s fuel crisis was different: fuel was in short supply nationwide. People understood the need to conserve because they didn't know if there was any gas to be had at the next exit. It's impact was felt across all demographics.

Today's "crisis" is based on price increases due mainly to speculation. Gas is plentiful if you are willing to pay for it. Some people, like myself and others here, have made changes to our behavior, but from what I see the vast majority are going about their business as if nothing has changed. Oh, they complain about it, but don't change at all. Some will dump their SUV for something with better mileage, but continue to drive 80. Nothing makes me sadder than to be passed by a Prius, with a single smug-faced driver, going 80.:mad:

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