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The High Cost of the 55 MPH Speed Limit

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Publication Date: September 1986

Publisher(s): Heritage Foundation (Washington, D.C.)

Author(s): Milton R. Copulos

Topic: Transportation (Traffic and traffic regulation)

Keywords: Smart growth

Type: Report


A dozen years after its enactment, it is evident that the National Maximum Speed Law was a seriously flawed piece of legislation. The assumption was that reducing speeds would help conserve significant amounts of motor fuel. This has not proved to be the case. Had it not been for the mistaken connection made between imposition of the 55 mph limit in 1974 and the dramatic decline in traffic fatalities that year, the law would probably not be on the books today. There is more than ample evidence now to refute the contention that the NMSL is a major factor in reducing traffic fatalities on the nation's highways. In short, 55 is a law the U.S. can safely live without.