Friday, November 25, 2011

What President Nixon Did This Day in 1973

On this day in 1973, America was taught that one set of government regulations leads to even further government regulations. Because of price controls on gasoline prices, gas shortages developed across the country. In an address to the nation, President Nixon asked citizens to drive less and for gas stations to close for 27 hours on weekend.

The interventionist streak that is part of almost any President, then really went crazy in Nixon, he called for a 50-mph speed limit, limits on air travel and urged citizens to not hang Christmas lights.

Congress followed up on Nixon's request with The Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, a bill that included the National Maximum Speed Law. States had to agree to the limit if they desired to receive federal funding for highway repair. The uniform speed limit was signed into law by President Nixon on January 2, 1974, and became effective 60 days later.Naturally, all states complied with the new limits.

Driver non-compliance was very high. From April through June 1982, speed was monitored on New York's Interstate highways, and an 83% noncompliance rate was found, despite extreme penalties ranging from $100 (1982 dollars, equal to $228 today) or 30 days jail on a first offense to $500 (1982 dollars, equal to $1,138 today), up to 180 days in jail, and a six-month driver's license revocation upon third conviction in 18 months.

On June 1, 1986, Nevada ignored the NMSL by posting a 70 mph limit on 3 miles of Interstate 80.

In the April 2, 1987, Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, Congress permitted states to raise speed limits to 65 mph) on rural Interstate highways.

Congress lifted all federal speed limit controls in the November 28, 1995, National Highway Designation Act, returning all speed limit determination authority to the states.

But the sting from Nixon's initial proposal is not gone.

Despite repeal of federal speed limit controls, current maximum speed limits are on average lower than in 1974:

25 state now have the same speed limit as pre-1974.
8 states now have higher speed limits than pre-1974.
17 states now have even lower speed limits than pre-1974.

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