Column #26955 MPH Speed Limit

What do they have in common? Collateral damage from government decrees can eventually frustrate citizens—to the point where warnings are ignored. Many of us lived through the 1973 oil embargo. During the worst days of the embargo I’d drive to a gas station at night, when it was closed, and leave my car next to a pump. I’d show up in the morning before the station opened to be first in line for a fill up. It took two cars of course to pull that off.

Back in the day when the 1973 Arab oil embargo resulted in gasoline shortages, politicians got the bright idea to lower the speed limit to reduce gas consumption per mile. So, in 1974 Congress passed the National Maximum Speed Law. The bill mandated states to lower maximum highway speeds to 55 miles per hour (mph) in order to receive federal highway funds. Up to that time most states had speed limits ranging from 60 mph to 80 mph. Some roads in Nevada had no limits.1

By the early 1980s the repercussions of the embargos had died down and the oil price dropped. But instead of reinstating the old speed limits, fuel conservation efforts evolved into a national campaign to increase traffic safety. It was backed by scientists who trotted out data showing that thousands of lives would be saved every year by enforcing lower speed limits. So, because of the science, in order to save lives the 55 mph law wasn’t cancelled.

Americans drove one trillion miles annually in 1970 and by the early 1980s that number had increased to 1.5 trillion. If 25% of that mileage was on 70 mph roads, that’s 250 billion miles in 1970. At 55 mph it takes 4.55 billion hours to drive 250 billion miles. At 70 mph it takes 3.57 billion hours. Reducing the speed added 980 million hours per year in drive times.2

Humans live about 700,000 hours. So the 980 million hours represents 1,400 entire lifetimes wasted per year. The average accident victim is middle aged. Therefore I figure the slower speeds wasted the equivalent of 2,800 lives if only one occupant was in each vehicle. By the 1980s the annual waste of time measured in human lives reached 4,200!

Later, after higher speed limits were reinstated a “scientific” study came out that calculated the increased highway speeds caused an additional 12,545 deaths over ten years which is 1,254 deaths per year. The authors of the study strongly recommended that the 55 mph limit be reinstated!3

The scientists didn’t take into account the collateral damage of slower speeds. Not only was there a cost in wasted lives, but it took more trucks and trailers to move the same quantity of freight. That required more commercial drivers that had to be paid more cents per mile driven because of the slower speed. It required a larger investment in equipment. The roads were more congested and the increase in truck traffic required more road maintenance.

Piled on top of that abuse was the tiny savings in fuel consumption. It was estimated to be between 0.2% and 1.0% primarily because vehicles are most efficient on the faster roads and, the slower local traffic which already drove more miles, consumed just as much gas as before. Obviously, driving long-distance was no longer enjoyable. It was infuriating.

The collateral damage was self inflicted on all Americans by politicians and bureaucrats following the “science.” Additionally, one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that government policies in the 1950s helped set the stage for the country’s growing dependance on foreign oil. And during the embargo, domestic oil production was hindered by additional, very ignorant government dictates over oil production pricing. The beat went on . . .

Working people experienced all those flaws. So, in spite of the propaganda machine blaring out the message that slower speeds saved lives and highways kill, most Americans eventually ignored the 55 mph limit by driving faster—risking death and fines. In addition, after years of being badgered by government propaganda and slogans, millions of people became totally fed up with the lawmakers. It was only after years of squabbling did the politicians finally get together in 1995 and overwhelmingly repeal the 55 mph mandate.4

Amazingly, deaths per mile driven have been declining for 100 years and they continue to go down. Initially the 55 mph mandate did make some improvements but after three years the death rate leveled off. Then after a couple more years the long-term downward trend reestablished itself and continued to drop even after 1995. Today, in many regions of the country, the average driver is going 75 mph on roads with 70 mph limits. It’s mostly better roads, better “crash-proof” cars, and more safety devices built into the cars that’s been saving lives. Today, there are 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles driven compared to 3.53 in 1974.5

Will our nation’s COVID-19 pandemic response turn into a fiasco that’s a little like the 55 mph response to the oil embargo? For starters, we have no idea how long the virus will be around. There is a large family of coronaviruses and they’re a type of virus that has been around for a long time. Many of them can make people ill with sniffles or coughing. As they replicate and spread, they can mutate. Already there is more than one strain of COVID-19.6

As a virus mutates, it can make a vaccine obsolete. That’s why last year’s influenza vaccine may not provide immunity for this year’s influenza virus. Therefore, people need a flu shot every year. Consequently, COVID-19 might be with us for decades as vaccines chase a moving target.

According to a recent Associated Press report, so far this year there has been about 300,000 more deaths than last year. The belief is that 200,000 deaths were associated with a COVID-19 infection. (It’s possible that nearly half of the reported COVID-19 deaths were people who would have died this year from other diseases even without COVID-19.)

The additional 100,000 deaths were elderly people ages 75 to 84. That was 21.5% more than in a normal year. But the biggest relative increase, 26.5%, was in people ages 25 to 44. These deaths were probably caused indirectly by COVID-19: For example, they might have been drug overdoses or suicides brought on by depression, fear of going to the hospital, or a fatal stroke caused by a lack of testing availability.7

There are other issues that will have long-term consequences. School dropout rates in 2020 have increased virtually everywhere. Many businesses, which were forced to shut down, will never reopen—destroying their owners financially and the jobs they supported. The massive increase in debts in the public sector will have consequences that will fall mostly on the younger generations.8 9

We’ve reached a point where Americans are getting tired of not having any fun. There are restrictions on everything they like to do such as taking cruises, visiting foreign lands, air travel, staying in hotels, attending conferences, going to sporting events, restaurants, bars, moveis, the arts, and theme parks, enjoying the company of others at Thanksgiving, going trick-or-treating, and, of course, going to church.

Already there is talk about COVID-19 fatigue. A growing number of Americans are getting tired of the continuous drumbeat of more cases and more cases. Many realize that it’s likely that way more than 50 million Americans have already had COVID-19 and have fully recovered! Those who are cured are now immune, which means they can’t get it and can’t infect others. Many people have learned that the scientists at the CDC say COVID-19 has a lower fatality rate than influenza for all age brackets below 70. Many of them know influenza vaccines are only 12% effective on seniors over 65. They are hearing calls from WHO for replacing lockdowns with personal responsibility.10

Our nation is reporting more cases. Many are asymptomatic or very light cases that are only being detected these days because everyone can get a test at any time. Thank goodness deaths are not rising inline with the number of cases. That good news is due to early detection, better treatments, and more infections in younger people. Some of the states with the worst problems are mostly those that reported very few cases last spring. The states that got hit hard last spring and summer are doing better because they may very well be approaching low levels of herd immunity. That doesn’t mean they’ll have no more cases, it just means there are fewer people left to infect.

USA COVID Cases & Deaths Oct 2020I have no idea how all this will play out. But my take on it is, we must be more proactive regarding our own health. COVID-19 is not a joke especially for elders in our midst and the people with weak immune systems. Many people may not show signs of having a weak immune system, but if they are overweight, that’s a sure sign something is out of kilter. Anyone with diabetes, heart disease, skin allergies, arthritis, intestinal issues, and even asthma are showing signs of impaired immunity. So at the very least these people MUST be more proactive because the vaccine may not work on them and catching COVID-19 or even influenza could be a serious sickness.11

Instead of depending on others to save the day, fighting viruses is an individual battle. COVID-19 is not to be taken lightly by elder citizens. Their personal immunity is their key to a longer life. They must take action now. As I’ve been saying repeatedly since February when COVID-19 was just getting noticed, here’s what everyone must do to have a strong immune system with optimal body function.

Diet is where you start. Then add in the following:
●    Don’t Smoke
●    Exercise Regularly
●    Maintain a Healthy Weight
●    Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
●    Get Adequate Sleep
●    Minimize Stress and Anxiety

The best foods are nutrient dense and diverse, with close to 1:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) balances, that are also low glycemic. Yes, it’s the original diet of man. Grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, wild-caught seafood, the dark green leafy vegetables, and many other vegetables such as squashes and beans are excellent selections. Foods high in Omega-6 EFAs should be avoided whenever possible. They are the seeds, nuts, grains, most oils, and grain-fed meats.12

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don’t miss these links for additional reading:

1. 1973 Oil Crisis from Wikipedia

2. Total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the United States

3. Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States by
Lee S. Friedman, PhD, et al.

4. House Votes to Repeal 55-M.P.H. Speed Limit : Roads: Bill gives states authority to set standards. Californians are expected to see more 65-m.p.h. signs. By Elizabeth Shogren from LA Times

5. Motor Vehicle Fatality Rate in U.S. by Year from Wikipedia

6. Strains of Coronavirus from WebMd

7. CDC says U.S. Has Seen 300k More Deaths than Usual from PBS News Hour

8. Enrollment Is Dropping In Public Schools Around the Country from NPR

9. The Latest Crisis: Low-income Students Are Dropping out of College this Fall in Alarming Numbers from Washington Post

10. COVID-19: Not That Deadly? by Ted Slanker

11. The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids by A.P. Simopoulos

12. Food Analysis: EFA, Protein to Fat, Net Carbs, Sugar, and Nutrient Load by Ted Slanker