Driving 55 in 2011

Thirty minute consumption chart

Remember Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55?" Released in 1984, it became the unofficial anthem for the SUV generation that came to power during the Regan presidency. We'd been driving 55 since the Oil Embargo of 1973 and President Nixon's subsequent signing into law the National Maximum Speed Law on January 2, 1974. The NMSP was finally repealed during the Clinton Administration on December 8, 1995.

While all the states accepted the law in order to continue to receive federal highway funds, no-one liked the law, and enforcement was generally lax unless you were really, really over the speed limit. As an example, I was still single and living in Atlanta in 1980. In January of that year I'd just heard back from Digital Communication's Associates HR that I'd been hired. It was an engineering job I really wanted, at a company I really wanted to work for.

I was ecstatic, and so I went roaring out of my apartment parking lot in my little silver Honda Civic to go celebrate the good news with my girlfriend and future wife. No sooner had I turned onto I-285 west from I-85 south than I was picked up by a Georgia State Patrol car, who was conveniently sitting just over a hill and under an overpass. I got a ticket for 75, or 20 over the speed limit. And the only reason he got me going 75 was because I had to slow down from 90 to safely take the exit off of I-85 south. Anyway...

That photo is of the Consumption screen on my 2009 Prius, a hybrid that now has a bit over 40,000 miles on it. The last four columns on the screen, representing the last 20 minutes of driving, were generated while driving on the 408 on the way to work. I'd just turned off of Challenger Parkway and was headed north on Alafaya when I took this photo. I'd been driving 55 just about the whole way, due to the posting as well as the ongoing construction around the 417 intersection. My gas mileage was nearly 75mpg for most of the time on the 408 while traveling at 55 mph.

Driving the Prius is a bit like playing a video game, where you're trying to get the highest score; in this instance, the greatest miles/gallon. There's a certain satisfaction to be had in boosting the mpg numbers without going to crazy extremes. It's a shame all cars don't have something like the Prius' consumption graphic built in; positive reinforcement such as this will always gain greater results than any edict from the government.


  1. I remember when a friend of mine switched from a little Acura to a considerably larger Audi. The bigger car had the ability to display its current fuel consumption, and as my friend is an engineer, he always had it running.

    I've never seen anyone accelerate to highway speed so slowly.

    It was a far less efficient car than his previous one, but in the end he didn't spend that much more on gas.

  2. Do you know what's sad? That little 78 model Honda Civic, a CVCC, got the same gas mileage for me from 1978 to 1982 that I get now with my Prius, 45-55 mpg. It was s small, well made car with a small efficient engine and a smoothed exterior, a lot like the Prius. Then, as the years progressed, the Honda grew larger and more angular, and the gas mileage dropped lower and lower. If it hadn't been for that I would have probably stayed with Honda.

    That 78 Honda cost me $4,400 new. My 2009 Prius was $22,000 new. Such is progress.

  3. its always hard comparing with the USA as they have 3.7L in the gallon (vs the 4.54 L required to fill a UK gallon), either way it means you're getting 4.2L/100Km which is quite good for a car.

    The question which I feel needs answering is "what are the disposal issues for batteries in hybrids"

    perhaps along with "how much C02 is generated making the high tech cars VS how much do you save in their life span"


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