It was 37 years ago today that the Federal government mandated one of the most ignored regulations in U.S. history — the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.
The purpose of the so-called “double nickel,” we were told, was to save gasoline. The country was in the midst of the “energy crisis” and forcing drivers to slow down would save millions of gallons of gasoline… or so we were promised.
Disobedience to the new rule was almost universal. For many drivers, it became a contest to see how much over the speed limit they could go before law enforcement officials would stop them for speeding. In the wide-open spaces of the West, that number approached three figures.
This “temporary” regulation was finally revoked in 1996. In the 23 years it was the law, scofflaws paid many times more money in speeding tickets to various governments than the combined savings on gasoline.