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We Have Slow Food. Are You Ready For Slow Driving?

June 9, 2010
55 mph speed limit being erected in response t...

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When President Carter called for a 55 mph national speed limit in response to the 1970s Arab oil embargo there was a national outcry, and car manufacturers were not far from a decades-long binge on massive cars with powerful engines that could propel them nicely at speeds far in excess of the pokey 55 mph (recent research indicates that given an open road, Americans choose to cruise at 70 mph).

But with oil saturating the Gulf of Mexico, billions of American dollars a year going to nasty, hostile, dictatorships, and climate change slowly throttling the planet, I’ve been waiting for someone, somewhere, to make the case again for slowing down. And according to WIRED, someone has. And the new number is–drumroll–50 mph!

Everyone knows easing up on the accelerator can improve your fuel economy and reduce your emissions. But what kind of impact would it have on the environment if everyone had to slow down?

A potentially big one, as it turns out.

Dutch researchers say lowering the speed limit to 80 km/h (50 mph) would cut transportation-related CO2 emissions by 30 percent. Less drastic cuts in maximum speed would yield reductions of 8 to 21 percent, according to the study by CE Delft.


Beyond significantly reducing the amount of fuel vehicles burn, a strictly enforced 50 mph speed limit would increase the time required to cover a given distance. That would lead many people facing long commutes to ditch cars in favor of other modes of transport, like rail. Longer term, the impact could prompt people to move closer to urban centers.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot. There’s no reason to rush anymore, anyhow, because we are still fully plugged in via our smartphones, even when we are stuck in a car (kidding, cyclists, kidding. Sort of…).

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