With fuel prices now hitting $4.50/gallon in California and even topping $5 in Hawaii, it may be time to ask the question, Can you drive 55? The original national speed limit came about in 1974 following the first Arab oil embargo and stayed in force for 19 years before it was finally repealed. While the premise of the 55mph speed limit was a perfectly valid one, the effectiveness of the rule was debatable. There is certainly no doubt that driving at a lower speed would consume less energy. The problem lies in the fact that the national 55mph speed limit was perhaps the most universally ignored law in history apart from prohibition. With some people obeying the law and perhaps far more openiy flouting it, the latter were constantly speeding up and slowing down. That fluctuation in speed may have actually consumed more fuel than was saved by driving 55. If the spread among speeds on the roads is smaller and people are driving at a more constant speed, their mileage will be better. Unless we can find a way to actually bring down the speeds to 55-60mph and keep the spread smaller, we may not actually get much real benefit. Perhaps now that gas is closing in on $5 and their is widespread concern about both the environment and energy independance, a lower speed limit would actually work. Would people actually slow down this time?

[Source: Wired Blog, via GMNext]

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