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History of Speed Limits in America

October 10, 2017 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Whether you like them or not, speed limits play a crucial part in American history. In 1901, Connecticut was the first state to pass a speed limit law. This made the legal speed limit only 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on roads in the country. New York City introduced America’s first comprehensive traffic code in 1903.

The price of fuel prices rising caused a lot of states to begin applying a speed limit laws to save resources and money. In 1974, President Richard Nixon agreed and the 55 miles per hour law went into effect. Traffic fatality rate greatly decreased after the speed limit change. Because fuel prices became less of a problem in the 1980’s, the speed limit on interstate highways was increased to 65 mph. In 1995, the U.S. Congress allowed individual states to determine its maximum speed to drive. Since that time, 35 states raised their limits to 70 mph or higher. 

If you know the saying, "everything's bigger in Texas," this idea extends to how fast we’re allowed to drive in the Lonestar State too. Texas boasts the greatest overall top speed when you average the speed limits on urban interstates, rural interstates, and other limited access roads. A 40-mile stretch of a toll road between Austin and San Antonio is the fastest road in America that legally lets drivers go 85 mph. As cars have become faster and as roads have become safer, speed limits across the country have changed.

What other states have the fastest and slowest speed limits?

Slowest Speed Limit (55 mph or lower)

  • Alaska

  • Connecticut

  • New Hampshire

  • District of Columbia

  • Hawaii

  • New York

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Massachusetts

Fastest Speed Limits (75+ mph)

  • Arizona

  • North Dakota

  • South Dakota

  • Idaho

  • New Mexico

Regardless of how fast you’re allowed to drive, it’s crucial that your car is in top-notch shape regardless of the speed limit. At Japanese Motor Works, we are passionate about automobiles, and we hope you feel inspired to trust our auto repair capabilities and our highly-skilled team of ASE-Certified auto technicians. To schedule an appointment, call us at 706-744-4814. Japanese Motor Works is located at 200 Firefighter Court in Athens, GA 30607.


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