January 2nd

55 MPH Speed Limit Day -

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55 MPH Speed Limit Day, commemorated each year on the 2nd of January, is an observance that encourages road users to reflect on the importance of speed limits. The day marks the historical moment in 1974 when a national maximum speed limit of 55 MPH was enforced in the United States during an oil crisis.

This day continues to serve as a reminder of the critical role speed limits play in preventing accidents and ensuring safety on roads. It is not merely about sticking to the limit for a day, but about fostering a consistent attitude of caution and safety while driving.

History of 55 MPH Speed Limit Day

The 2nd of January is recognized by some as the 55 MPH Speed Limit Day. It signifies the day in 1974 when legislation enforcing a nationwide maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour was signed into law by then-President, Richard Nixon. This legislation is known as the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act.

Before this law came into effect, every state had the liberty to establish its speed limits. The Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act was a direct response to the 1973 OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil embargo. This event led to a widespread international energy crisis that prompted President Nixon to enforce a 55 MPH law in an attempt to lessen the country’s fuel consumption. Optimal fuel efficiency for vehicles is thought to occur at speeds ranging from 50 to 60 MPH.

However, the law’s introduction was met with considerable protest and objection, especially from drivers and state governments. Many viewed it as the federal government overstepping its boundaries, whereas others, notably those from sparsely populated states with long-distance travels and less traffic, saw it as unnecessary and restrictive. Despite this opposition, the Congressional Research Service estimated that the law helped save approximately 167,000 barrels of oil every day.

Following years of debates, the law underwent several changes and amendments. In 1987, an amendment permitted states to increase the speed limit to 65 mph in certain areas. By 1995, through the National Highway System Designation Act, the national speed limit mandate was completely dissolved, returning the authority to state governments to establish their speed limits.

While the 55 MPH speed limit is no longer a nationwide requirement, 55 MPH Speed Limit Day serves as a tribute to a period of time in the country’s history when this speed limit was enforced to conserve energy during a crisis.

55 MPH Speed Limit Day Timeline

First US State with Speed Limits

Connecticut sets a motor-vehicle speed limit of 12 miles per hour in cities and 15 miles per hour on country roads

More States Speed Limit Laws

As automobiles became more common, speed limit laws were introduced mainly as a measure to increase road safety.

Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act

Richard Nixon signs a law to save fuel by reducing the national speed limit to 55 MPH.

Speed Limit Increases to 65

The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act allows states to increase speed limits to 65 MPH on certain roads.

Repeal of National Maximum Speed Law

States are now permitted to establish their maximum speed limits. Some continue to enforce the 55 MPH limit, while others set higher limits.

Ideas to Observe 55 MPH Speed Limit Day

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Highway clean-up event

You could plan a highway tidy-up action where attendees aid in cleaning up roadside litter.

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Awareness rally

Plan a public rally to raise awareness about the importance of following speed limits. Ensure all the participants who travel in vehicles respect speed limits.

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Commemorative run

Coordinate a run where the aim is for runners to finish a 5.5-mile run. This promotes both health and serves as a subtle homage to the 55 mph speed limit.

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Organize a storytelling event

Set up an event where attendees share narrations related to driving experiences, highlighting the importance of following speed limits. This would be a wonderful platform to emphasize safer driving practices.

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Virtual car race

Plan a digital car racing game competition with the speed for players capped at 55 mph. It is a fun and engaging activity that also stresses the importance of adhering to speed limits.

5 Interesting Facts About 55 MPH Speed Limit Day


Origin of 55 MPH Speed Limit Day

This event on January 2nd celebrates the day in 1974 when the United States formalized the national maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour.


Purpose of 55 MPH Speed Limit

Interestingly, the law was issued not primarily for safety measures, but as a measure against the 1973 OAPEC oil embargo. The aim was to lessen fuel usage and minimize foreign oil dependence.


The National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL)

Enforced by the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, this speed limit law barred speed limits beyond 55 MPH. Non-compliant states risked losing federal highway funds.


Change in Speed Limit

In a shift of the law in 1987, states were permitted to raise speed limits to 65 MPH on specific highways. The authority to define speed limits was fully returned to states by 1995.


Controversy and Opposition

The 55 MPH speed limit was a topic of significant debate, stirring contention over states' rights, enforcement matters, and balancing safety with the goal of conservation.

55 MPH Speed Limit Day FAQs

Next 55 MPH Speed Limit Day Dates

Year Date Day
2023 January 2nd Monday
2024 January 2nd Tuesday
2025 January 2nd Thursday
2026 January 2nd Friday
2027 January 2nd Saturday
What is the pattern? Every January 2nd

55 MPH Speed Limit Day Word Search

  • Limit
  • Safety
  • Caution
  • Enforcement
  • Travel
  • Law