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On November 29, 1995, President Clinton grudgingly signed a highway bill repealing the much-hated National Maximum Speed Limit. In 1973, President Nixon signed the NMSL into law in an effort to force people to save gas. This law allowed the federal government to withhold federal highway money from states that didn’t drop their speed limit to 55 mph. Real-world fuel savings were negligible. Safety activists proclaimed that it saved a lot of lives, and would bring out charts showing that the highway fatality rate had dropped since the law was enacted. The starting point for said charts was when the law was enacted, and sure enough, the fatality rate decreased in the years after. Had they shown a chart going back decades, you would have seen that the fatality rate had been declining since the late 1940s.
There was a lot of opposition to the law’s repeal. Auto insurance companies certainly had an interest in seeing as many speeding tickets issued as possible. To listen to professional headache Ralph Nader, one would think the ditches would be running red with blood if the daredevils who populate the various state legislatures were allowed to set the speed limits for their own states’ roads. Since 1995, a whole lot of states have enacted highway speed limits as high as 75 and 80 mph. God Bless Texas, they have a toll road that’s 85 mph. What about those highway fatality rates? Still dropping. As a matter of fact, when states first started raising their speed limits, the highway fatality rates dropped in virtually all states; the states that raised their speed limits saw the HFR drop more quickly than the states that didn’t.
If this article were done properly, I would link to sources. Unfortunately, this anniversary crept up on me and I don’t have time to put in all the documentation. I will give you a link, though, to the website for the National Motorists Association. More than probably anyone else, this group fought and fought against the NMSL. I’ve been a member since 1988, when they were still called Citizens’ Coalition for Rational Traffic Laws.
I do have one anecdote to add.Some time after the repeal was passed, I was watching Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. They were talking about how awful it was that those yahoos in the western states had raised their speed limits. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter was a guest and agreed that those westerners didn’t know what they were doing, and Pennsylvanians could get killed out there.
That was the night I learned to hate Arlen Specter.Published in