© 2023 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Perspective: Can YOU drive 55?

Pixabay, Unsplash

A national maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour was enacted in 1974 when, in response to the 1973 oil embargo that followed the Arab-Israeli war of that year, the Emergency Energy Highway Conservation Act came into effect.

After years of controversy, the law finally was repealed in 1995. Authority to set speed limits then devolved to the states.

Did the Drive 55 policy save fuel? Yes. It’s been estimated that oil consumption was reduced somewhere between four and ten percent annually.

Did it save lives? Yes. On the tenth anniversary of the law in 1984, conservative estimates placed the number of lives saved on highways in excess of 45,000.

Now, nearly fifty years later, another reason to drive 55 has become apparent: climate change.

From a public policy standpoint, returning to a national 55 mile per hour speed limit makes all kinds of sense. We’ll save fuel, save lives, and reduce emissions. What’s not to like?

From a political standpoint, though – forget about it. We might as well try to empty Lake Michigan using teaspoons.

I say (somewhat glumly) that the only fallback for now is individual action – patently futile as that may seem.

Well, I’m going for it anyway. Pick up a figurative teaspoon and join me, won’t you?

Drive fifty-five. Help the planet survive.

I’m Scott Summers, and that is my perspective.

Scott Summers is a McHenry County attorney. His blog SummersTimes is at ssummers.substack.com.