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A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
1/2/19 9:55 p.m.

In 1978 we borrowed my grandpa’s big ‘73 LTD and headed to Georgia.  Mom and dad’s ‘74 Mustang II was deemed not trip worthy for a family of four.  Dad claimed he had to “go with the flow” and in Tennessee the “flow” was 70 to 80.  After years of being driven around at 55 (I was 8), 70 felt damn near supersonic.  

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
1/2/19 9:58 p.m.
imgon said:

55 saves lives! I think that was one of their slogans. No it doesn't,  because now the family road trip takes all day instead of 4 hours and dad is going to kill one of his kids when they arrive at their destination, no lives saved. I got my license in 76 and remember being pulled over for going 57 on the highway, it was heavily enforced,  not the good old days.

Yeah but you could buy a brand new car with factory installed battering rams at both ends.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
1/2/19 10:01 p.m.

Another way to look at it is that before then people were driving 70 on the highway, but they were in mostly 1960s (or older!) cars with bias ply tires and drum brakes.  In retrospect, maybe not the safest thing.  smiley

Appleseed MegaDork
1/2/19 10:05 p.m.

Not quite old enough to remember it proper. But I heard enough over the road trucker stories from the old man that it was real enough.


I am old enough to remember Montanabahn.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Dork
1/2/19 10:22 p.m.

I traveled thousands of miles over the next 12 years after it was implemented. I worked on 50 harness racing tracks in 10 States and two Provinces. 

I would stay on the CB radio, follow the big trucks, plus stay really alert to any hiding spots.

There were certain situations where you had to slow down. Never speed across the state line, slow down when passing under or overpasses or any kind of possible hidden pull-offs on the highway. Slow down around curves or over hills.

If the highway was pretty straight with good sight lines, you had communication with professional drivers in front and back of you, and you kept a good eye open, you could push it pretty good. I did 65-75 pretty consistently, never got stopped for speeding.

It didn't hurt that I had unusually good distance vision. I could spot a marked car, or even the unmarked plain sedans from way off.

outasite HalfDork
1/2/19 10:43 p.m.

I was living in New Jersey. Gas prices had doubled in price from 35 cents per gallon. PANIC!! Leaded gas was cheaper than the unleaded that was introduced for use in catalytic converter vehicles. People would cut out the plate used to restrict the larger leaded gas nozzle. Converters were cut off/removed, charcoal cannister hoses were plugged, air injection pumps were removed, even carb preheater hoses were removed, vacuum hoses were plugged with BBs or golf tees. Gas lines, odd/even days, stock piling gas

Customers wanted to improve MPG. They came in asking about headers, changing 4 bbl to 2 bbl carbs, changing cams, changing differential ratios, big engine cars and trucks were being traded for fuel efficient cars (Toyota Corolla was #1 selling car in US in 1975)

I was driving a new Trans Am (white w/blue firebird). Driving 55 was like walking.  I was pulled over several times and received one ticket that I did deserve. CB radios and radar detectors were used by those of us wanting to drive fast. I received a SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT windshield banner for Xmas one year. (It on my Tracker now) 

Sold the TA and bought a new 77 Blazer and new 76 Honda Accord Hatchback (waiting list).

By 1980, gas was around 1.50 and the panic started again. 55 mph was still being enforced by all law enforcement groups. 

1982 found me driving a stealth 1980 9C1 Malibu with CB, radar detector and radio scanner. Late 80s/90s speed limit enforcement declined. However, driving an "arrest me red" 5.0 Mustang or later a "boy racer blue WRX still received too much attention from LEO.


joeg1982 New Reader
1/3/19 4:48 a.m.

It was actually 50mph--for a very brief period of time.  That 55 crap simply was a horrible era for interstate travel.

admc58 Reader
1/3/19 6:34 a.m.

I grew up in Kansas and when the made all the highways 55mph...My Grandmother would drive on the gravel roads at 80 in her Buick Wildcat. 455 

Unless posted, the gravel roads did not have speed limits...but as a State Trooper told me, after I passed him on a gravel road parallel to the highway he was on... The law states..."Reasonable and Prudent"!... 

DeadSkunk PowerDork
1/3/19 9:15 a.m.

In the summer of 1979 I was with some co-workers (including my boss) on a business trip to Connecticut. We had driven down from Quebec in the company car. I was driving and got pulled over by a state trooper who had clocked me at 87 in a 55 zone. It was Saturday morning and we would have had to spend the weekend so I could go before the judge on Monday morning. It was also just a few weeks after Ken Taylor , the Canadian ambassador to Iran had helped smuggle some Americans out of Iran. The trooper told me to behave myself and let us go. I drove all the way back to the Vermont-Quebec border at 55.

zordak Reader
1/3/19 9:37 a.m.

When this happened I thought I would never drive 70 legally.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
1/3/19 9:55 a.m.

I-95 (and now I-295) through PA from DE to NJ (about 53 miles) is still 55 MPH, although actually going 55 MPH is dangerous and will get you run over.

It still blows my mind the PATP speed limit is now 70 MPH.  Normal commuting traffic does 80 or more now.  

pontiacstogo New Reader
1/3/19 10:11 a.m.
outasite said:

I was driving a new Trans Am (white w/blue firebird). Driving 55 was like walking. 


My reminder of those years is my 74 T/A.  Someone must have really been thumbing their nose at the trends when they sat down at a dealership and ordered it in 1974.  People back then probably kept them under 55 mph due to the speed limits - I do it now because I worry a rod's going to make a break for it through the block blush

 photo 019_zpswxnkt6pv.jpg

jstein77 UltraDork
1/3/19 10:19 a.m.
Danny Shields said:

I'm sure no one here ever violated it...

I never obeyed it...

GCrites80s Reader
1/3/19 10:23 a.m.
jharry3 said:

I remember it. Happened when I was in high school.   Everyone bought CB radios and used them to keep track of Smokey and where he was giving out green stamps.  Channel 19 on the CB was the trucker's channel.  They were always entertaining.

   Cops would drive at 55 mph hour and there would be 50 cars stacked up behind them.   If you passed you were pulled over and the rest of the line was free to "speed" for a while.     

Grassroots solution to the overreaching government.   

  I don't think I would have gone over to the dark side and became libertarian if not for the 55 mph speed limit. 


I wasn't born yet, but I can tell that model year 1973 was a total apocalypse in the mind of the average male of the time and certainly contributed to their political leanings.

Gearheadotaku UltimaDork
1/3/19 10:47 a.m.

I was a kid during the 55 era and remember many, many hours in the backseat going from Michigan to Arizona or Florida. These were regular trips and took foreveeeeerrrr. Now I can make it from Detroit to Atlanta in little over 10 hours. Progress!

m_walker26 Reader
1/3/19 10:56 a.m.

I was in college when gas prices jumped.  My Karmann-Ghia only held 10  gallons. Gas had been 29.9 forever at a station near campus.  I pulled in one night with my girlfriend jumped out and filled up the tank.   It always cost 3.00 or less to fill up.  That night it was 4.50.   Had to scrape around under seats, door pockets, etc to find enough change to pay.

When the speed limit went to 55 Tennessee gave $5 "Conservation" tickets over 55 but under 75.   I got a lot of those.

iceracer UltimaDork
1/3/19 1:11 p.m.

In reply to Slammo :

Means they are not giving 10 over but you can probably steal that five.

RealMiniNoMore PowerDork
1/3/19 1:38 p.m.

In reply to iceracer :

I've heard, "Nine, you're fine. Ten, you're mine." 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
1/3/19 5:31 p.m.
joeg1982 said:

It was actually 50mph--for a very brief period of time.  That 55 crap simply was a horrible era for interstate travel.

That's right.  We had to drive 500 miles to a funeral during that time period  - it took forever.

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