By John Toth
I escaped again recently to the isolated world of the hideaway. I go there to chill out. This trip was much needed.
To start chilling out, though, I have to get there. The fastest way is on Interstate 10, a road I like to drive on as much as I like to have a colonoscopy. There are ways around I-10, but for all practical purposes, if you want to get there “pronto”, you take I-10.
For starters, I don’t like driving 75 mph all that much. I think that’s too fast. I’m sure I’m in the minority, because when I do go 75 mph, a lot of cars are still passing me.
Unless one truck is passing another, almost nobody goes slower than 75 mph on I-10. When the trucks are passing, they slow down the flow of traffic, and cars start stacking up behind them. After they free up the left lane again, the speedsters want to make up for lost time and rev it up, way past 75 mph.
I remember when the speed limit was 55 mph. We accelerated to 67-68, sometimes 70, and thought we were getting away with it, until the red and blue light came on behind us. Many of our readers remember those days also.
It was slower, but we still got to where we were going, unless we crashed and didn’t wear a seat belt. A lot of us did not. I seldom did, but I also didn’t crash. I have since changed my ways about seat belts. That was a long time ago.
How long ago? In the fall of 1973 (the year I got my driver’s license), in response to the OPEC oil embargo, President Richard Nixon issued an executive order mandating a 55 mph national maximum speed limit. Nixon and his cabinet knew that there was no way to appease OPEC, but he hoped that by lowering the national speed limit, the government could save hundreds of thousands of barrels of fuel a day.
The following January, Congress made it official and passed a “temporary” one-year continuation of the limit. It was made permanent when Congress enacted it and President Gerald Ford signed it into law.
Did it make much difference? Not really. By the time Nixon came out with his law, several states already had lowered their speed limits to 55 mph, some even to 50 mph.
In other states, the police unofficially let drivers get away with 10 mph over. I wish I could have found one of these officers back in those days. In my state, the 55 mph speed limit was often used to raise revenue.
This law stayed on the books until 1987, when the U.S. Senate voted to allow states to increase speeds on rural interstates to 65 mph. From there, it kept going up, and here we are now, driving in a maze of cars and trucks at 75 mph.
I have a solution to trucks taking up both lanes and slowing traffic down behind them. I know that they perform an important task, hauling products that fuel the country’s economy. But, what do you think about keeping truck traffic in the right lane only on two-lane highways - like on I-10?
On highways with three or more lanes, they could occupy the two right lanes, leaving the rest of the lanes for cars.
I noticed this being the case the last time I drove in Europe, where smaller trucks carry a big load and go slow. The cars, including mine, just zoomed by them, especially in Germany (you probably all know why).
As much as I hate driving on I-10, I really like stopping at Mikeska’s Barbecue in Columbus and loading up on some great food that usually takes us two days to eat - except for the barbecue chicken sandwiches, which we eat at a very clean state rest stop just down the road.
Then we can again be hideaway-bound and keep dodging the trucks and speed racers as we get closer to tranquility.
(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)