55 MPH Speed Limit? Readers Say It Won’t Work

Is a 55 MPH Congressionally mandated speed limit a good idea? By a large margin, readers say it won’t work. Here are the results and a sample of the pointed comments from readers on both sides of the issue.

Should Congress mandate a 55 MPH speed limit for Americans?

No one likes paying $4.00 or more for a gallon of gas but a large majority of readers think that a mandatory 55 MPH speed limit is not a good idea. 68% say they are opposed to the idea floated by Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and most of those responding do not think we will actually save gas.

Most comments sent in by readers were opposing the proposal. Many readers wrote that we tried a mandated speed limit back in the ’70’s and it did not work then and will not work now. Many also stated it would cause more congestion on the highways, use more gas because it takes longer to drive to a destination, and that it would be more dangerous because many drivers would ignore the limits and put others at risk.

On the other hand, some readers were in favor of the limits on the theory that the lower speed would save lives and gas.

Here is a summary of the results from the survey taken earlier this week:

Response Summary for Setting a Lower National Speed Limit

1.  Would a federally mandated speed limit of 55 MPH reduce oil consumption? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
yes 515 48% 1070
no 555 52% 1070
2.  Is setting a national speed limit of 55 MPH a good idea? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
yes 286 27% 1070
no 725 68% 1070
not sure 59 6% 1070


Here are sample comments sent in by our readers sent in to explain the rationale behind their vote in the survey.

An employee from the Department of Agriculture in Vineland, NJ wrote: "I can’t imagine anyone thinking lowering the speed limit to 55 mph is a good idea. Most people do not adhere to the current 65 mph speed limit let alone lowering it….I thought ethanol was supposed to fix the "problem" and all that did was make grain prices sky high which once again trickled down to the consumer. The higher prices are everywhere now as a result of ethanol – higher cost to feed the animals which results in higher meat prices, milk, and wheat products. Where will it end??"

An entomologist from USDA in Dry Prong, LA commented: "It was done before and could be done again. Here in LA I doubt that they would enforce it – most areas I’ve been to in the state they never enforce the speed limits."

A program specialist from NOAA in Silver Spring, MD thinks everyone should drive 55 but not mandate the limit: "55 is a good idea, however, some folks will not slow down, no matter what!! If they choose to speed and use up gas, let them. Every driver should know by now that the faster you drive, the more gas you use!"

But a retired engineer from the Air Force in Centerville, OH disagrees: "Unless an automobiles optimum efficiency occurs around 55 mph, limiting to this speed will not reduce fuel consumption. Most car’s engine & drive train systems are currently designed to optimize fuel consumption for a cruising speed of around 60 to 70 mph, not 55."

And an Air Force employee from Georgia sent in this comment: "The 55 mph limit would reduce consumption but that is only a small part. We need all aspects of energy allowed to flourish, wind, solar, nuclear, drilling off shore and in ANWR, shale to oil, etc… We need to be an energy independent nation for security purposes. The Dems need to stop bashing the oil companies for the 8.5 cents per gallon profit. The government get about 18.5 cents profit and they don’t drill, refine or transport the stuff. I agree that the money is staggering to me but those profits are mostly for the shareholders who are everyday citizens trying to get ahead and plan for retirement. The Dems need to get out of the environmentalists pockets and do what is environmentally AND economically good for the US."

A police officer from the Army in Lima, Ohio sees a psychological aspect to the issue: "60 mph is more generally acceptable to the populace. At 55, you don’t make good distance in time. At 60 the perception of moving "a mile a minute" satisfies the need for distance in time, while conserving gallons of fuel."

A retired Postal Service employee from Lockport, NY thinks Congress is the problem: "Geez, they’ve already caused the ethanol fiasco; please keep them away from all oil/gasoline policy decisions……. "

An employee of the VA in Michigan urges higher mileage cars: "Did not work in 1974, will not work now! Cars burn fuel not speed! If you have a car that gets 30 mpg vs 15 mpg, you are either spending 1/2 the $’s to do same distance or go twice as far on the same spent. (Only 12% of the cars in US get over 25 mpg.) (my cars get 39/34/32 and "gas hog" gets 26 mpg on the road. Build/buy the kind of cars that get good mpg. I can go 70 mph and 38 mpg!"

A painter from the Air Force in Midwest City, OK thinks drilling for more oil is the answer: "Price will regulate driving speed. Production increases will decrease costs ie drill for more oil and promote alternative power."

An analyst with the Navy in Washington, DC agrees: "Congress needs to focus lifting restrictions, not mandating them, to address the fuel crisis. Federal restrictions on oil exploration, drilling and refining are damaging our nation’s economy. Those entrusted few on the hill are not acting in the interest of the country."

A project engineer from the Dept. of Energy in Washington State has a similar view: "This was tried before, it didn’t work. Check the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Drill now and everywhere."

An engineer from DoD in Colorado Springs, CO has this thought: "Not no, but hell no. If I want to slow down and save gas or speed up and pay for the extra, that’s my concern. For heaven’s sake don’t take us back to the days of that idiot Carter."

A medical tech from the VA in Texas says driving in Texas can be a lot of miles: "If the speed limit in Texas is reduced to 55 mph, it would take 10 hrs to drive to El Paso from my home. Much of the roads that have 70-80mph speed limits in Texas are in areas where there are to towns anywhere around. Just land for miles and miles. It’s crazy to drive 55 mph in the desolate areas."

An IRS attorney from Lanham, Maryland likes his Prius: "Unfortunately, setting the speed limit at 55 is a meaningless gesture. I drive on a speed limit 55 highway everyday at 64 mph. Not only do the majority of drivers pass me without a second glance, except for the "look at the idiot in the Prius doing only 64 mph (and getting an average 52 mpg!)), the county and state troopers also ignore my obvious law breaking. I used to get scared when I saw Smokey Bear on the side of the road; now I just leave the cruise on 64 and keep on truckin’."

A retired VA employee from Rome, New York has sent letters urging the adoption of the 55 MPH limit: "I have sent several letters to Senator Clinton suggesting this proposal. Worked before!!"

A program manager from the Treasury Dept. in Indianapolis has a different problem because of his sports car: "I drive a high-powered sports car that operates more efficiently at a higher rate of speed. At approximately 65 to 70 mph, I attain my highest fuel efficiency and, at 55, I would actually be driving less efficiently."

An inspector with CBP wants to keep government out of our lives: "If people can afford to pay for the gas thier burning let them drive at a faster speed limit. For those of us that can’t afford it we’ll drive slower. That’s one reason there are multiple lanes on highways. We don’t need the government regulating everything in our lives."

A security analyst from DoD in Ft. Meade, Maryland wants to start working four days a week to save gas and improve his attitude: "55 was a bad idea in the 70’s. How about a Fed mandated four day work week? Or, what about working from home one or two days a week? That will get more cars off the road and improve employee attitudes."

An employee from GSA in Atlanta sees Congress as an impediment: "In 2004 I voted Democrat for the 1st time in many years based on a promise that they would stop rising gasoline prices. So far they have proposed socializing the fuel industry and reducing speed limits. Meanwhile, gasoline prices continue to rise. How about we open up good old USA oil fields and give oil companies incentive to add more refineries and get rid of these rediculous regional formulas. I drive cross-country frequently, reducing the speed limit will only impede my movement."

And an HR assistant from the Forest Service in Albuquerque, NM thinks the problem lies with enforcement: "We already know that 55 mph saves gas and lives. Anyone who experienced the gas embargo of 1973/1974 can attest to that, but states and local govt. have to be willing to enforce the speed limit otherwise most people will ignore it."

Our thanks to all readers who took the time to send in their comments and vote in this recent survey.