May 16, 2022

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When you’re in the US never go above 55 miles per hour

It is hard to imagine the long-term consequences of the current consequences international energy crisisWhich started due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and was affected by the war in Ukraine. Some similar crises in the past had major lasting effects, in relations between countries but also in some aspects of daily life. Most notable are certainly the old national speed limits in the United States, familiar to anyone who has traveled the country before 1995: for more than twenty years, no American road can exceed 55 mph, at just under 90 kph.

This limit was imposed by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1973, and he did so because of the global oil crisis that began with Yom Kippur Warwhich included Israel, Egypt and Syria. As with the current crisis, it was a series of factors that developed in the past decade that led to the 1973 case.

In the 1960s, the oil market was dominated by the so-called “Seven Sisters”: Western companies Mobil, Chevron, Gulf, Texaco, Shell, Exxon and British Petroleum, which, thanks to the advantages obtained, monopolized the cycle of extraction and production. in the colonial period. They tried to oppose some of the developing countries that met in 1960 in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – initially Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela – who wanted to regulate the amount of oil extracted each year in the world. and prices.

Initially, the OPEC countries were limited to demanding an increase in royalties paid by foreign companies to be able to extract oil, but after obtaining it they asked for a share in the extraction companies. They were in a position to negotiate because in those years the demand for oil – which is used to fuel manufacturing and transportation activities around the world – increased dramatically.

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The decisive event that changed the balance that had existed until then occurred on October 6, 1973, the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel with the aim of driving the Israeli army out of the occupied territories. During the Six-Day War of 1967. The OPEC countries, in support of Syria and Egypt, decided to significantly raise global oil prices and reduce exports by a quarter, and also imposed an embargo on the most important pro-Israel countries.

The war lasted only 19 days and did not produce decisive military results, but suddenly oil prices quadrupled, creating major problems for the countries most dependent on it, including the United States and Western European countries. Then in Italy the so-called period began austerityAnd Remember first of all the ban on the use of cars on Sunday. At the same time, speed limits were introduced in the amount of 50 kilometers per hour in built-up areas, 100 on roads outside cities and 120 on highways.

Similar measures have been taken in the United States, one of the countries where the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has imposed a ban, and where the speed limit chosen has been stricter. On November 26, 1973, President Nixon—who had been in office since 1969, less than a year before had ended the Vietnam War and was, among other things, dealing with Watergate scandal He proposed a national speed limit of 50 mph (about 80 kph) for cars and motorcycles and 55 (90) for trucks and buses. These limits were designed with the idea that at these speeds the car’s engines would reach maximum efficiency, which would have allowed gasoline to be saved: it was estimated that along with other measures, such as banning the sale of fuel on Sundays, they would. It managed to reduce annual gasoline consumption by 2.2 percent.

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Eventually, the only 55-mph limit was set: it was introduced across the United States, replacing previous higher state limits, in March 1974.

The ban on OPEC countries ended in the spring of 1974 but the US national speed limit remained in effect because it was believed to have reduced traffic accidents and increased safety. In fact, most US states recorded fewer road deaths in 1974 than in 1973. The government also required car companies to prominently display the number 55 on their speedometers.

However, the speed limit has not been appreciated by many US citizens and some countries in particular. Although there is no doubt that the same accident would have worse consequences if the speeds of the vehicles in question were higher, it has been questioned over the years whether the 55 mph limit actually contributed to the increased safety: in the same period, safety devices were are growing. Vehicle safety It was difficult to distinguish between the effects of the two on reducing the number of accident deaths. Even after the limit was removed, road fatalities continued to decline, thanks in large part to laws that made seat belts mandatory between the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Billboard for “The Craziest Race in America” ​​(1981), a comedy about an illegal car race in which a sign indicating the 55 mph speed limit is destroyed

The first partial removal of the national limit occurred in 1987, when Congress voted to raise the limit to 65 mph on interstate highways. Instead, the ability to set speed limits on different types of roads was returned to individual states only at the end of 1995.

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In 1998, the Transportation Research Council, a division of a US national research organization, Saucepan The 55-mph limit reduced fuel consumption by between 0.2 and 1 percent.