Manual chokes: why not?


You guys are right, it was Nixon. Maxima Mea Culpa. I plead old age.
I was overseas when it happened, and have no excuse for not remembering the Nixon years… and the bombing of Hanoi (that’s why I was overseas). I guess the 55mph speed limit impact on me was just plain overwhelmed by the bombing of Hanoi (Operation Linebacker II), the 15 B-52s we lost in the Operation, Ho coming to the table as a result of the operation, and all the other much more important stuff going on at the time. This forum not being a military history forum, I’ll just admit my memory error and get back to cars. I’m truly sorry I got distracted.

The 55 mph limits may have reduced fuel usage some, which was their intent, but unfortunately the effect on safety was that it created greater differences in the speeds of the cars sharing the highways, as well as early versions of “road rage”, and subsequently reduced safety. Speed differences on highways cause flow turbulence, and that causes accidents, especially at night. Especially when a line of drivers headed home after a long day’s work gets bunched up on a highway designed for 70mph behind some guy doing 55 mph. It’s true that accident damages rise with speed, but the number of accidents rises with obstructions. And “rolling bottlenecks” are obstructions.


Like that idiot I mentioned, the guy who was doing 35mph on the freeway, with absolutely no excuse


I’ve never thought about two stoke engines, but I like your theory. It makes perfect sense.


To go off track again, I have mixed emotions about Nixon. He got in because he said he’d stop the war and the Dems were in disarray. I realize what he did to Johnson. Our orders were already cut to send our reserve unit to Nam though but Nixon canceled them so we never did go. I think he had some redeeming qualities but I wouldn’t exactly trust him. I was flabbergasted that he lowered the speed limit though and still I’m not sure why he did it. There must be a back story there somewhere.


It was in response to the OPEC oil embargo. US drivers went from fat, dumb, and happy to finding themselves rationing gas virtually over night. Nixon ordered a temporary lowering of the speed limit to 55 as an emergency measure. Later, Carter made it permanent because it “saved lives and the environment”.
There was a drop in traffic fatalities, though a lot of it was likely due to the fact that people stopped a lot of their needless driving. Suddenly, places that used to be open 'til midnight were closing at 8:00. I would siphon gas into jerry cans from my car so I would have weekend gas to go on a motorcycle ride. It was hard to buy gas on the weekend.


I always thought that proponents of the 55 mph speed limit were clustered in crowded eastern states (and DC) with destinations close at hand. So what’s another half hour in the car? Traffic’s bad anyway.

I cannot imagine a Texan saying “Sure, lets make that trip from Texarkana to El Paso take 3 days instead of 2… in the summer,with no AC” Same for Montana, Nevada, Arizona ect.

It bred a health disrespect for law enforcement and created an industry of radar guns and detectors.


About 25 years ago, there was TV news coverage of a retired MD whose Cause Celebre was to deter speeders, and he decided that he was entitled to play policeman. On a daily basis, he would drive his car–below the speed limit–in the left lane of I-495 (the DC beltway).

That roadway suffers from traffic congestion to begin with, and his actions caused genuine havoc on the highway as traffic piled-up behind him, people changed lanes in order to avoid him, and–in general–he was a true traffic hazard. He was interviewed by a reporter and this senile old coot was adamant that he was correct, and that everyone else on the highway was wrong.

The cops seemed to have little motivation to do anything about his habits, but the problem finally resolved itself when he died.



It was much, much worse than that. People were lining up for hours only to have gas stations run out before they got to the pump. Fights broke out as people tried to cut lines, and police details had to be hired to control the traffic in the lines at the pumps. Backups blocked throughways. It got really bad in many areas.


Did someone finally shoot him?


Yes. They are spread very thin due to continuing budget cuts.


Well sure, in trying to get gasoline during the shortage but I was talking about the extra time involved in getting from A to B.

I couldn’t drive during the first embargo but I don’t remember my dad having any real issues getting gas nor did I during the 76/77 problems. Other areas, as you say, weren’t so civilized.


As I recall, he died from terminal case of…being excessively ornery.


As the oil crisis grew the oil companies gave network reporters stories of running out of crude oil worldwide.

And as for Texas and the 55 mph speed limit I drove across that state at 90 mph and rarely slowed below that speed through Dallas Ft Worth and I was often being passed.


Was this retired MD politically connected . . . ?

It would seem if somebody is continuously a known road hazard, he should be receiving some citations


Yeah, that link said that 65 vs 55 resulted in 25% more fatalities, but only 3% more crashes overall. What I said was the accident rate was based on relative speed, not absolute, and the paltry 3% increase seems to back that up. (I don’t know the accuracy of the data: was 3% even statistically significant?)

The current SOP seems to be trust in engineering for fatality reduction, and let people drive at a more popular, faster speed. I don’t reall have a problem with that.


I don’t recall him–or anyone else–talking about his political affiliations/connections. Bear in mind that his exploits took place ~25 years ago, and I don’t believe that reporters delved into his personal politics. If they did, I have no recollection of what they might have been…although I have my suspicions.

In any event, he was able to create havoc on I-495 on a daily basis, without interference from the police.


What level of carnage is acceptable when setting speed limits?


I’ll take an enforced 70 mph limit over an ignored 55 mph limit any day when it comes to reducing carnage. A lot of the fatalities come from people who were driving way over the limit.
Responding to a high accident rate by lowering an already ignored speed limit even more is a lot like doing this:


I wholeheartedly agree.
NH also now has a “distracted driving” law too, another major cause of accidents in addition to differences in speed. Enforcement is spotty, but it’s a start…

Race drivers can go extreme speeds because in addition to having special skills and talents, and in addition to all going the same speed, they focus highly on the task at hand. I have no data to back me, but I’d bet lunch that (weather-caused incidents aside) the overwhelming majority of accidents happen because someone isn’t paying attention.

The reason I mentioned weather is because there are occasionally extreme weather events that cause 40, 50, 60 car pileups, and these can skew the data if the database isn’t sufficiently large.


NJ has had one of those statutes for a few years, and–unfortunately–I see no difference in the number of distracted/texting/phone-using drivers since the law was put into effect. I suppose that a few tickets are issued for that offense, but my guess is that the number is…very few.