Car Culture & Entertainment / News & Car Culture

This Date in Automotive History: 55 Became the Law–and Then We Came to our Senses!

For hot rodders, race enthusiasts, and lovers of all things fast, January 2, 1974 was another date that lives in infamy.

With just a few pen strokes, then-President Richard Nixon killed what was left of the groovy, early-1970s New Year’s buzz by signing the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act into law. Suddenly, 55 miles-per-hour was the new national speed limit.

With automotive manufacturers already trending toward more fuel efficient vehicles with smaller displacement engines, the new national speed limit law helped usher in a very forgettable era for performance-oriented auto enthusiasts. And instead of saving us money via fuel savings (as the law was intended to do), the law probably cost us additional cash because of our inability to drive 55.

You can learn more about the history of the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act here, but the law was eventually repealed in 1995 and individual states were once again allowed to set their own speed limits.

We urge you to observe 55 seconds of silence in remembrance of the national speed limit (January 2, 1974-November 28, 1995)–or maybe just watch this video:


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