September 10, 2007

Speed limits of the past

A friend of mine loaned me New York: A Guide to the Empire State, the old 1940 WPA guide that is now sadly out of print. I'm just getting started reading it, and came across this:

No State speed limit, but speed in excess of 40 m.p.h. for 1/4 m. is considered presumptive evidence of reckless driving. In special cases maximum speed is indicated on road signs. Incorporated villages and cities establish speed limits never less than 20 m.p.h. (xxii)

I wonder when (and how) those limits climbed. Even though I drive to Boston and Montreal occasionally for work, an effective limit of 40 everywhere seems like a pleasant idea, as I watch the traffic fly by on the theoretically 45mph highway in front of my house.

Update: The Onion, a satire site, suggests an appropriate vehicle. I could actually fit one of those in the garage on this house, so I'd be willing to consider it, provided I could use modern wheels and tires. Gas mileage ranged from 13 to 21mpg, so I'd probably rather go with a Model A at 40 mpg. Its top speed of 45mph would be okay for these old speed limits.

Posted by simon at September 10, 2007 6:37 PM in ,
Note on photos


Mike Lane said:

Sometimes speed limits go down. Before "new NYS Route 13" was opened in 1964, the highway followed present NYS Route 366 from NYSEG through Varna to Ithaca. Then the statewide speed limit was 50 mph. That is what it was on Route 13. The road was probably not as good as 366 is today. The number of driveways was about the same. It was heavily trafficked by trucks--probably a lot more than Route 366 carries today--and lots of cars. While the statewide speed limit increased to 55 mph (I think in the 1970's) we actually saw the limit on Route 366 lowered to 45 mph a few years ago.