When I delivered my energy message last April, I hoped that the national 55-mile per-hour speed limit--already in force--would help reduce gasoline consumption, which is essential if we are to extend the world's finite supply of oil. If we all drove within the speed limit, we could save more than 8 million gallons of gasoline a day. That's nearly a third of the reduction in total gasoline consumption I asked for in my energy program.
We have saved gasoline by driving slower. Tests by the Federal Highway Administration indicate that, depending on the type of car, drivers can get from 17 to nearly 50 percent better gas mileage at 55 miles per hour than at 70. And we have saved lives. Since the lower speed limit was adopted nationally 3 years ago, there have been approximately 9,000 fewer highway deaths each year than in 1973. The reduced speed limit has been the biggest single factor in this 17-percent drop in highway fatalities.
Unfortunately, highway speeds are again creeping up. Highway safety officials tell us that enforcement is difficult as average interstate speeds again approach 65. Worst of all, the numbers of people being killed or seriously injured in highway accidents are rising again with the increase in vehicle speeds. In July, 169 more Americans died on our highways than in July of last year; for June, the increase was 175.
This is a matter that deserves, and must have, greater Federal attention. General Davis, as special representative to Secretary Adams on 55-mile-per-hour speed limit education and enforcement, I hope you will redouble your efforts in communicating the importance of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit to the safety leaders of our States and the people of America. Let it be clearly understood that by exceeding the speed limit, we are wasting fuel and, in too many instances, lives as well.
In your meetings with State law enforcement and safety officials, please convey my concern and assure those responsible for the safety of our highways that Federal support will be supplied and appropriate Federal actions taken to assist them in their programs. I will expect a report in 30 days on the status of speed limit compliance throughout the country, along with recommendations from the Secretary of Transportation on any additional measures considered advisable to save fuel and stem the tide of fatalities on the Nation's roads.