Writer can’t " and doesn’t want to " drive 55 | SierraSun.com

Writer can’t " and doesn’t want to " drive 55

Prentiss Davis

Please, not again. I got that sinking feeling watching the morning news shows Monday and it got worse when I checked the online news services. Apparently, there are people in high places pushing a return to the national 55 mph speed limit as a way to conserve fuel.

As a salesman driving Western highways from 1970-2002, I suffered with The 55 mph speed limit nearly each and every day.

This silly regulation was clearly proven to have virtually no effect on fuel consumption. In fact, many traffic engineers argued that it created congestion and in doing so contributed to fuel being wasted by vehicles sitting motionless or in stop-and-go traffic. Traffic congestion in built up areas clears out more quickly if vehicles in more rural areas are allowed to move away from the congestion at a quicker pace, just as the water moves faster through a garden hose when you open the nozzle.

More to the point, at any given time, the vast majority of Americans’ cars are laboring in city traffic or on secondary roads at speeds far below 65 mph where a reduction to 55 would not be relevant. Next time you’re driving from Sacramento to Reno, just slow down and take an extra half hour. Perhaps you’ll save half a gallon of gas.

Is that what your times worth?

After it was clearly proven that 55 wasn’t saving energy, the anti car crowd promoted 55 as a safety measure. They hope you don’t know that most fatal accidents happen on roads that would not be affected by a reduced speed limit. Accident and injury rates on rural interstates dropped substantially after 55 mph was repealed in every state, including California.

Inattention and boredom are likely far more serious contributors to accidents than additional speed when the speeds involved are so low to begin with. The 55 mph limit is simply unrealistic in modern vehicles driving on superhighways designed to be safe at much higher speeds. Individuals who are more comfortable driving at speeds lower than those currently allowed on rural interstates should probably not be driving at all.

More gasoline would be saved if drivers would simply inflate their tires properly. This would also make a major contribution to overall traffic safety. Under-inflated tires can cause blowouts, which sometimes result in accidents particularly on vehicles operated by brain-dead drivers. That also explains why the tires are under-inflated to begin with.

You will be happy to know that the feds will be requiring tire pressure monitors on all new cars soon, many already have them.

If saving gasoline is so very important, why doesn’t the government ban pleasure boats, private planes, jet skis, snowmobiles, motorcycles, motor homes, lawn tractors and a host of other gas-wasting toys? Because in America we have the right to use the darn gas as we see fit; burn it in our back yard barbecue if that’s what we want to do with it. And with the tax on gas what it is, we are more than paying for the privilege.

It’s worth noting that during the 55 era, the California Highway patrol did not generally use radar. With the use of radar on rural interstates by the CHP now nearly universal, and the cost of a speeding ticket approaching a king’s ransom, the revenue generated by a re-imposed a 55 mph limit would be substantial.

Just think how many new officers will be needed to enforce 55? How many new positions filled to process all the tickets and punish the scofflaws? The vultures in Sacramento and the other state capitals must be salivating at the prospect.

Before you send any hate mail, weather permitting, I drive a four cylinder sub-compact that delivers 32 miles per gallon.

Prentiss Davis is a Truckee resident.