I can’t drive 55 again; please don’t make me

Sign of the times
Lowering the national speed limit during ’70s oil embargo

“Borrowing trouble” is what my mom used to call it, this constant fretting about things that may never happen. This time I’m waiting for Congress to suddenly decide, once again, that a national 55 mph speed limit is a great way to save gas. As if $4 a gallon weren’t enough incentive!

You’ve heard it already. Slow down; you’ll burn less fuel if you drive slower. Truckers are slowing down. Even the airlines announced slowdowns. It’s easy to see how some dim bulbs in Washington might decide we should all slow down.

A lot of Americans are too young to remember the Arab oil embargo back in the ’70s when Congress imposed a national 55 mph limit to save gas. As one who often drove from Oklahoma City to Denver, I can only recall those days as awful. East Coast drivers (including those in Washington) scarcely noticed because on their congested roads, they seldom reach that speed anyway. And of course the well-to-do could opt for flying.

Out west it was a different story. We don’t drive dozens of miles out here; we drive hundreds. And we don’t speak so much of miles driven as hours behind the wheel. It takes most of a day to drive across Kansas, for example, and that’s on an interstate at over 70 mph. On a hot summer day at 55 mph, it’s just plain agonizing.

As mom said, I’m probably just borrowing trouble again. After all, we have a couple of oilmen in the White House now, don’t we? The rising oil prices are most likely fattening their wallets at this very moment. Why on earth would they want to make us buy less?

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3 comments

  1. “….East Coast drivers (including those in Washington) scarcely noticed because on their congested roads, they seldom reach that speed anyway.” Ha! ha!

    I’ve been taking things much slower just around town- it actually does make a difference of +4 or 5 m.p.g when doing so. Guess I never knew how much of a lead foot I was until my husband mentioned how the mpg went down when I was driving. Since then, I’ve slowed down and it makes a big difference. And, that’s just locally 😉
    ………………..
    I don’t do much driving, just to the supermarket or over to my son’s house. That’s just at normal city speeds. It’s different, of course, on the interstate. If you go too slow, you’ll get run over. Still, I paid $4.10 a gallon last week. That got my attention.

  2. Ah, I remember those days. I remember people swapping license plates because last digit had to be even or odd to buy gas on certain days of the week. And then gas hit 65 cents a gallon. And then *gasp* 70 CENTS A GALLON!

    I dunno. I think Americans complain about the cost of gas too much. They were paying $4.00 a gallon in Europe 15 years ago.

    And on Long Island, there’s no 55. I was doing 70 in the middle lane in a 55 the other day and two troopers in a car pulled along side me in the left lane, touched the edges of their glasses, smiled big toothy smiles, and floored it. Apparently I was holding up the show!
    …………………
    Lol! I hear that. Around here, 70 seems to be a minimum, not a max. That’s okay on the open road, but scary in bumper-to-bumper urban traffic.

    The $4 gas doesn’t hurt me that much, but my son has a 45-minute commute (one-way) to work, and his wife and kids run around all day in an SUV. Their budget was bursting a year ago.

    I’d forgotten the license plate swapping! Then after the swap, you had to find a station that had some gas before you ran out looking for one.

    What’s really sad is that the embargo prompted a lot of discussion about the need to develop alternative energy sources. So how are we doing 25 years later? Hmm …

  3. Hey 30,
    I didn’t realize that’s why they downgraded the speed limit way back then. Though, I’ve never been much of a driver, and have generally worked near to where I live. But yeah, I’ve been in that crawling traffic and it is agonizing – especially out here – because you’re right, there is a lot more driving necessary when you live in SoCal, than pretty much anywhere else.
    WC
    ………………….
    SoCal driving would scare the $^*( out of me! Well, it would if the smog didn’t blind me first.

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