My good friend Paige Carruth is going to flip when he gets wind of what I’m about to write next.
I’ve gotten used to driving 75 mph on our highways.
There. It’s off my chest. I feel cleansed already.
Why the change of heart?
Flash back to the mid-1990s. I was writing editorials for the Amarillo Globe-News. Congress had just been taken over by Republicans in that historic Contract With America election. The federal government had enacted since the 1970s a federally mandated 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways. We took the position then that lifting the limit was dangerous on a couple of levels.
The feds had enacted the speed limit to reduce fuel consumption; the Arab oil embargoes of 1973 and 1979 frightened us, remember? Reducing the speed in fact reduced our consumption of fossil fuels. What’s more, it reduced the number of traffic fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Congress didn’t listen to us. The 1995 Congress removed the federal mandate and gave states the authority to jack up the speed limits. Texas jumped all over it and the 1995 Legislature bumped the speeds up to 70 mph on interstate highways. I was mortified. I said so at the time publicly, in my column; the newspaper editorial policy suggested it was a mistake as well.
Paige — a retired West Texas State University administrator — has never let me forget that I am a slow-poke by nature.
Well, that was true then. It’s not so true now.
I’ve gotten used to the 75 mph speed limit. The state has since boosted its speed to 75 on many highways — interstate freeways and state-run highways.
Allow me this tiny boast: My wife and I today returned from a weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where we visited our granddaughter — and her parents. We left their home in Allen this afternoon at 1:40; we pulled into our driveway in Amarillo at 7:37 p.m. That’s less than six hours in what usually takes us a lot longer.
The 75 mph speed limit helped us set what we believe is a personal land-speed record.
It helps that one of our two vehicles is a Toyota Prius hybrid that gets stupendously good fuel mileage, which enables us to justify our willingness to press the pedal to the metal. It also helps that the little car — to borrow a phrase used by the late great Hall of Fame baseball pitcher-turned announcer Dizzy Dean — can really “pick ’em up and lay ’em down.”
I feel better already having acknowledged that driving a little faster doesn’t give me the nervous jerks the way it once did.
Let’s not talk about driving 80 mph, which is allowed on some sections of Interstate 10 downstate. And Texas 130, where they allow you to goose it to 85? I’ll leave that stretch of roadway to the fools.