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Watch your speed in November

National Maximum Speed Law When: November 15th

What: The 1974 National Maximum Speed Law is infamous in car circles and remembered in songs and movies as the law that established the 55 mph highway speed limit. Although some Americans chafed under the driving restriction, it has been credited with saving thousands of lives and reducing national fuel consumption. Honor the speed signs in observance of the day President Richard Nixon ordered the 70 mph speed limit to be reduced to 55 on Nov. 25, 1973.

Background: Established by Congress in 1974, the speed limit reduction order was in response to the 1973 oil crisis. The president ordered that a national speed limit be set to conserve fuel in November, and the issue was signed into law the following January. The law required that all four lane divided highways implement a maximum speed of 55 mph, and also limited speed limits to 55 mph on all other roads as well. But by 1987, Congress allowed states to increase the speed limit on rural interstate highways to 65 mph. Eventually, the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 returned control of highway speed limits to states, spurring debate about speeding, auto safety and fuel efficiency.

Story Pitch: One of the law’s main goals was to decrease driving fatalities, which makes a good talking point for groups dedicated to road safety. The law’s direct emphasis on speed is a chance to educate people on the pivotal role speeding plays in accidents and fatalities and can also open the door to discussion of other preventable driving dangers like cell phone use. Citizens can also be encouraged to take an active role in local government to correct speed limits and traffic signs. Environmental organizations can also campaign around this event by showing how the speed limit reduces gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, which is not only better for the environment, but can also help save drivers money.

Story Hook: According to a recent article at WYNC.org, a person hit by a car going 40 mph has a 70 percent chance of dying, while at 30 mph a person has an 80 percent chance of living. How else can speed result in an accident? Keep the following in mind while making your pitch:

  • What are the speed limits and laws like in your pitching area?
  • How many automotive fatalities in a given year could have been prevented by a reduction in speed?
  • How does frequent speeding affect a car’s gas consumption and maintenance?
  • Where do most accidents occur and what are their causes?

Tips: Be sure to provide contact information for local police and the department of transportation since they regularly deal in road safety and statistics.


Drive 55
(916) 489-8601

Federal Highway Administration
(202) 366-0660

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
(703) 247-1500

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety
(703) 273-6005

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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