Speed Limits

Topics: National Maximum Speed Law, Speed limit, Road safety Pages: 5 (1815 words) Published: November 28, 2011
Push It to the Limit
Many things cross your mind while you’re traveling down the road. But have you ever wondered why do we have speed limits? Or maybe you do and you’re the grandma driver that everyone is stuck behind in a no passing zone. Everyone has their own speeds so why shouldn’t you be able to go how fast or how slow you wanted to go. Should we strike down every sign that the government has put up to regulate the speed limit in the thousands of highways around the country? And should we trust the driving ability of each and every person to drive within a reasonably safe speed? People automatically assume the speed limits are posted on our highways of our own protection, but are they?

The definition of speed limit is the maximum speed legally permitted on a given stretch of road. Speed limit discussions come up all the time about several factors, fuel prices which is the most common and speed which effects safety. Many people wonder if the federal government should return to having a say in what the speed limit is in every state. As of today each state has a say in what the speed limits are for their rural roads, highways, school zones and city streets. (Johnson, 2011) The national maximum speed law (NMSL) was a provision of the 1974 emergency highway energy conservation act, which prohibited speed limits higher than 55 miles per hour. This all started in 1973 when most states had already adopted statewide speed limits of 50 or 55. Texas governor Dolph Briscoe recommended the adoption of a 55 mph statewide limit. The vote was 3-0 because the board had cited unsafe speed differentials between the flow of traffic and people driving slowly to comply with governor Briscoe’s requests for voluntary slowdowns. As an emergency response to the 1973 oil crisis in November 1973, president Nixon proposed a national 50 mph speed limit for passenger vehicles and 55 mph speed limit for trucks and buses. That was also combined with a ban ornamental lighting, no gasoline sales on Sunday, and a fifteen percent cut in gasoline production. Nixon based these speed limits on his theory that cars achieve maximum efficiency between 40 and 50 mph and trucks and buses were most efficient at 55 mph. The emergency highway energy conservation act was a bill in the U.S. Congress that enacted the National Maximum Speed Law. States had to agree to the limit if they desired to receive federal funding for highway repair. The uniform speed limit was signed into law by President Nixon on January 2, 1974 and became effective sixty days later. The legislation required 55 mph speed limits on all four-lane divided highways unless the road had a lower limit before the date of November 1, 1973. In cases though like the New York Thruway 50 was already the speed limit. So the speed limit had to be raised in order to comply with the law and that law capped speed limits at 55 mph. Surveys at that point in time showed that twelve states already had maximum speed limits of 55 mph and that twenty-nine states had to lower their limits in order to comply with the law that had been put in place. In 1987, congress permitted states to raise speed limits to 65 mph on rural interstate highways. This program was originally slated to last four years. In 1995 Congress lifted all federal speed limit controls which returned all speed limit determination back to the states. Several states immediately returned to speed limits that had already existed before the law. Such as most Texas rural limits that were above 55 mph automatically reverted to 70 mph, causing some legal confusion before the new signs were posted. But all statistics point out that the accidents caused by speeding were down because people were traveling at a much slower rate during the time that the law was in place.(History, 2006)

Which states have the highest speed limits? Since 1995, states have been able to set their own speed limits. Some say that speeds in some states can be too high or some could be...
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