From 1974 though 1987, 55 miles per hour was the national speed limit. In the early days, the limit almost made sense, since those were the dark times between our first and second gas crisises. Back then, most cars on the road weren’t getting 30 miles per gallon, so restricting speed in the name of fuel savings became the logical thing to do. Somewhere along the line, groups embraced the 55 mile per hour speed limit since it was “safer” than the old 70 mile per hour limit. When the double-nickel fell in 1987, those opposed to raising the national speed limit predicted carnage, death and highways flowing red with blood.
It never happened, of course, and today it’s easy to look back on 55 miles per hour and laugh. The national speed limit was the most widely ignored law since Prohibition, and by the time it was repealed few drivers even remembered why it was enacted in the first place. I remember the heady rush of being able to drive at 70 miles per hour, sans radar detector, without fear of getting pulled over and ticketed. It felt a lot like the freedom you experience as a new driver, but the novelty of being able to drive at speeds that would have drained your bank account the year before didn’t last long.
In the years since, speed limits have generally crept up as states realize that inattentive drivers, not speed, kill. The sole exception I can name is Montana, whose “reasonable and prudent” speed limit fell when sports car drivers kept insisting that 140 miles per hour, during daylight hours, was indeed reasonable and prudent. Today, speed limits vary by state, county and even municipality. To help keep track of the states with the highest speed limits, I give you the list below, which names every state with a maximum posted speed limit higher than 65 miles per hour.
Speed Limit 85
Parts of west Texas, although not until the Texas DOT has a chance to review traffic on highways currently posted at 70, 75 and 80 miles per hour.
Speed Limit 80
Interstate 10 in west Texas, Utah
Speed Limit 75
Maine, Louisiana, west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma
Speed Limit 70
Washington, California, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan
As for the rest of the states, all except Hawaii have a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour. Hawaii, which isn’t know for long stretches of deserted interstate highways, has a maximum speed limit of just 60 miles per hour.