THE 55-MPH MYTH

This article contends that the benefits derived from the 55-mile per hour speed limit have not been enough to counteract the problems associated with enforcing it. Fuel savings have been far below FHWA estimates which had been based on tests under controlled conditions rather than normal highway operations. Of the 255000 barrel-per-day decline in fuel consumption in 1974 from 1973, only 71,000 could be attributed to the speed limit. Speeds exceeding 55 are possible on only a third of the nations' highways and on only half of that mileage are those speeds driven. The petroleum for motor vehicle represents a fourth of the nation's energy needs. Therefore, the greatest possible savings amount to less than one half of one percent of total energy requirements. Furthermore, the speed limit has not greatly influenced the decline in traffic deaths, since the vast majority of highway fatalities are from causes other than speed. Despite this, disproportionate amount of state highway patrol time is spent on speed limit enforcement, usually on freeways and interstate highways where the accident rate is actually lowest. In view, of this, the article recommends; the repeal of the 55 mile per hour speed limit, the use of the 85th percentile in setting speed limits, implementing the concept of Traffic Management by Objectives (the primary objective being reducing accidents and saving lives), and continued implementation of the federally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards as the most productive approach to fuel economy savings.

  • Availability:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • See also HS-029 991.
  • Corporate Authors:

    CBS Consumer Publishing West

    1499 Monrovia Avenue
    Newport Beach, CA  United States  92663
  • Authors:
    • TOMERLIN, J
  • Publication Date: 1980-5

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: p. 154-159
  • Serial:
    • Road and Track
    • Volume: 31
    • Issue Number: 9
    • Publisher: DCI, Incorporated
    • ISSN: 0035-7189

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00314654
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-029 911
  • Files: HSL, TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 11 1984 12:00AM