55 mph Speed Limit Day is observed on January 2 to remember former U.S. President Nixon’s 55 mph speed limit proclamation. If you drove a car in the United States between 1974 and 1995, you had to adhere to this law unless you were a daredevil rule breaker. In 1974, President Nixon signed the wildly controversial law intending to cut down gas usage in America and make roads safer. Two categories of people celebrate 55 mph Speed Limit Day: the first and most popular category remember the former nationwide speed limit with fondness and believe it should be reinstated; the second category did not experience the limit but agree that it would do some good today. Regardless of your thoughts on the speed limit, 55 mph Speed Limit Day is a day to think about road safety and energy conservation and make smarter and safer decisions on the road.
History of 55 mph Speed Limit Day
In the “first oil crisis” of 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo on nations perceived to be supporting Israel. This category included the United States. The domestic oil production in the United States had no hope of meeting the increasing oil demand, so President Richard Nixon proposed that a national speed limit be set at 50 mph for passenger vehicles and 55 mph for trucks and buses, in a bid to reduce the gas usage of Americans. Before this, states set their own speed limits.
The U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, including a National Maximum Speed Limit of 55 mph on all four-lane highways. On January 2, 1974, President Nixon signed the bill into law, which became effective 60 days later. States had to agree to the limit or risk losing federal funding for highway repair. However, it had very low compliance across the United States. In states like New York and Nevada, the non-compliance rate was as high as 83%. This was made worse when some states, in an act of rebellion perhaps, reduced speeding fines and minimized the law’s impact. Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada replaced traditional speeding tickets with “energy wasting fines” of $5 to $15 as long as drivers did not exceed the speed limit that was in effect before the 55mph federal requirement.
In 1995, the U.S. Congress lifted all federal speed limit controls in the National Highway System Designation Act, returning the power of setting speed limits back to the states. Most states reverted to the speed limits they had in place before the 1974 proclamation.
55 mph Speed Limit Day timeline
The Colony of New Amsterdam, now known as New York, decrees that wagons, carts, or sleighs must not be driven at a gallop or risk getting a fine.
The first numeric speed limit sign for road vehicles is put up in the United Kingdom, with the speed limit set at ten mph.
New York City introduces the world’s first comprehensive traffic code.
In Dayton, Ohio, a driver named Harry Myers is given the first paper ticket in the U.S. for speeding at 12 mph.
In the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis, President Nixon signs the National Maximum Speed Limit of 55 mph into law.
55 mph Speed Limit Day FAQs
What is the slowest speed limit in the world?
The slowest national average speed limit in the world is most likely 50 mph. This speed limit is the standard in countries like Bolivia, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Uganda, Trinidad & Tobago, and Madagascar, among a few others. However, in some rural motorways in Bhutan and Bangladesh, you could trudge along to speed limits as low as 19 mph.
What was the first speeding ticket?
On January 28, 1896, the first speeding ticket was issued to a motorist, Walter Arnold, in Kent, England. The speed limit was two mph, and Walter was fined a shilling for driving at eight mph. Coincidentally, Walter Arnold was one of the sons of the William Arnold & Sons Company, which acquired a license to build Benz automobiles in the U.K. in 1895. It is worthy of note, though, that paper tickets weren’t given for infractions at the time.
What is the max speed limit in the U.S.A.?
South Dakota has the highest speed limit in the United States, with speed limits of 80 mph on rural and urban interstates and 70 mph on other roads.
How to Observe 55 mph Speed Limit Day
Follow your state speed limit
You should follow your state speed limit every day, but it is especially important to do so on 55 mph Speed Limit Day. In the spirit of the day, also be more aware of road safety.
Pay your outstanding speed tickets
We’re all guilty of letting one or two speeding tickets slide and pile up. Let 55 mph Speed Limit Day be the push you need to finally pay off those tickets.
Drive on a 55 mph speed limit road
Get in the spirit of 55 mph Speed Limit Day by finding a road with a 55 mph speed limit — there’s still a few of them left in the United States — and getting a taste of what life was like in 1974.
5 Surprising Facts About Speed Limits
Different signs for different nations
Speed Limit signs look different in different regions.
Digital speed limit signs
Digital speed limit signs change depending on the time of day and traffic flow, and they inform law enforcement on high speeding areas.
Some places have no speed limits
In Germany, large portions of the federal highway, or Autobahn, only have recommended speed limits.
Some vehicles determine the speed limit themselves
Some European cars have an Intelligent Speed Adaptation technology which helps them automatically process the speed limits of the road they are on.
President Nixon wasn’t the first
During World War II, the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation set a national 35 mph “Victory Speed Limit” to conserve gasoline and rubber for the war effort.
Why 55 mph Speed Limit Day is Important
It reminds us about road safety
The fact is we need safer roads. From drunk drivers to speed devils, there are many risks to driving on the road. 55 mph Speed Limit Day allows us to take a step back and think about how we contribute to the safety of our streets.
It gets us thinking about energy consumption
The 55 mph bill saved about nine million gallons of gasoline per day in the United States. Today, the world is in an energy crisis, and 55 mph Speed Limit Day gets us thinking about how we use energy and in what amount.
Speed limits save lives
It seems like a no-brainer, but speed limits are exceedingly important. Love them or hate them, speed limits help us avoid thousands of road accidents every day. 55 mph Speed Limit Day is a day to celebrate the importance of speed limits everywhere.
55 mph Speed Limit Day dates