I can’t drive 55

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Whenever we have a gas crisis and gas prices shoot up — like now — something happens. I become obsessed with getting the highest miles per gallon from my vehicle.

Consequently, I change my driving habits. First, I accelerate slowly. Second, I take my foot off the gas and coast down hills. Finally, I don’t drive as fast.

On short trips, in the immediate area, I can’t drive 55. For example, on Saturday, Connie and I made a trip to St. James. On highway 19 south of Owensville, my top speed was 55 while coasting downhill. I had the cruise set at 52 mph. 

When we entered westbound Interstate 44 in Cuba, I set the cruise at just 65.

Our 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan averaged 29 miles per gallon for the round trip. I was pleased.

According to autoblog.com, the Caravan is expected to get 25 mpg on the highway.

American singer, guitarist and song writer Sammy Hagar coined the phrase in 1984, “I Can’t Drive 55” with his first hit solo. 

For my younger readers who don’t remember 1984, the top speed limit in the United States at that time was 55, thanks to the National Maximum Speed Law signed ten years earlier by President Richard M. Nixon.

The law was in response to the oil crisis of 1973. The national maximum increased to 65 mpg on certain roads in 1987 and 1988. Widely disregarded by motorists, congress repealed the law in 1995, returning control to the states.

Hagar started writing his hit song in a rental car while a New York policeman wrote him a speeding ticket for doing 62 mpg on a four-lane highway. 

Hagar had just returned from spending three months on safari in Africa. In 1994 he explained how it went down: “[I] had a place in Lake Placid at the time, a little log cabin, I used to go there and write with my little boy. Aaron, at that time, went to North Country school when I was on tour. I would go there and see him. It was a really cool getaway. But it took two and a half hours to drive there from Albany. And I was driving from Albany, New York at 2:00 in the morning, burnt from all the travel. Cop stopped me for doing 62 on a four-lane road when there was no one else in sight. Then the guy gave me a ticket. I was doing 62. And he said, ‘We give tickets around here for over-60.’ and I said, ‘I can’t drive 55.’ I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics. I got to Lake Placid, I had a guitar set-up there. And I wrote that song there on the spot.” 

I’m not saying I would be as conservative with my driving if I were on a two-plus-hour road trip. 

 Not everyone has adjusted their driving habits. Recently, while visiting advertisers on my Thursday route, I noticed some bad habits that reduce gas mileage in any vehicle.

After I pulled into the parking lot of a prominent business, I parked next to a late model Ram pickup. The nameplate on the hood indicated it was a Hemi. For readers unfamiliar with Chrysler’s famous Hemi engine, let’s just say it’s a big V-8, not known for the best gas mileage.

I have nothing against big powerful engines. But this one was idling. When I left the business 10 minutes later, it was still idling.

My next advertising stop was in the next town, just five miles away. Curiously I noticed the same phenomenon. This time it was a small SUV idling in a parking lot.

Check the weather. Last week it was not unbearably hot. The cars were not idling to keep the interior cool.

Obviously, the owners of these cars are not worried about the high price of gasoline.

There is a considerable debate if the National Maximum Speed Law was worth it. After all, many drivers were like Hagar and ignored the “double-nickel.”

Dr. John Eberhardt, with the Department of Transportation, did a study in 1978 that indicated the gas savings was only around 1 percent of the total gasoline usage. The main cost of the lower speed limit was, according to some assessments, an estimated loss of 200 million man-hours per year.

The difference between the gas crises of 1973 and 2022 is that the Biden administration bears a large portion of the responsibility because of it’s war on big oil.

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If you are a Hagar fan — also known as the Red Rocker — he will be in concert in St. Louis at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater on August 26.

 
 

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