Should The U.S. Lower Speed Limits In Order To Curtail Fuel Consumption?

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Speed Limit 55

Speed Limit 55

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The recent spike in oil prices has got the whole world focused on fuel consumption, so much so in some parts that countries are lowering their national speed limits in an effort to reduce their national fuel consumption levels.

One such country is Spain, which reduced its speed limit for cars from 75 mph to 68 mph.

The move is expected to save roughly 28.6 million barrels of oil annually, worth an estimated $3.2 billion at current prices.

Now ConsumerReports has posted the question: “should the same happen here?”

Using a 2005 Toyota Camry as an example, the influential magazine calculated that slowing down from 65 mph to just 55 mph raises the fuel economy of the vehicle from 35 mpg to 40 mpg.

It wouldn't be the first time lower speed limits were imposed in an attempt to save fuel during an energy crunch, but it's still not clear that the lower speed limits actually achieve their stated goals.

In 1974 the U.S. set a national speed limit of 60 mph, a policy which lasted until 1995. The price of oil had a large role in the institution and eventual repeal of the policy, but some advocates also played up the safety angle of the move. The problem with reducing speed limits is that reality and theory do not align well.

According to a NHTSA study from 1992, during the height of the last 60 mph national limit period, neither raising nor lowering the speed limit had any significant effect on the speed of traffic. In fact the only significant change noted by the study was the increase in speeding tickets issued when the speed limit fell too low.

So we post the question to you, should the national speed limit be lowered or is this a case of too much government intervention? Feel free to leave your responses in the comments section below.

[ConsumerReports via InsideLine]

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