NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 31, 2005

Ten years ago, Congress repealed the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL). Despite warnings to the contrary, Americans are driving safer according to automotive expert Eric Peters, writing in the American Spectator.

The federal government instituted the NMSL as a fuel-saving measure in response to the gas shortages of the early 1970s. It was never designed as a safety measure:

  • The U.S. highway system was designed for average speeds in the 70-75 mph range.
  • Consequently, most roads were afflicted with a posted maximum lawful limit far below its potential.
  • It did create a lucrative revenue source for governments -- to safely drive at the "natural flow of traffic" most motorists had to speed as most drivers ignored the new speed limits.

When Congress repealed the NMSL, many claimed that it would result in more car fatalities. However, the opposite occurred. The author argues that we are not only driving faster, but safer:

  • Motor vehicle accident and fatality rates actually dropped and continue to do so.
  • The latest data for 2004 show another drop -- to just 1.46 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
  • The accident/fatality rates in states with limits much higher than 55 mph has not gone up.

Source: Eric Peters, "Safe at Any Speed," The American Spectator, September 13, 2005.

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