How Speed Limits Vary Across the United States


Speed Limits Vary Across the United States

Speed limits while driving across the US will vary. Personal limits of the drivers of these vehicles will also vary.

But speed limits are established in advance, usually without any input or consultation from the driver. State or local government post speed limit notices on signs. Then they place enforcement officers to ensure that drivers stick to the speed limits. The driver simply has to remain aware of his or her speed and take heed of the limits placed upon them.

Personal Limits Also Vary

However personal limits are an entirely different story. These are established in us usually through the assistance of other, more experienced people. We look to people like parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches, mentors and bosses to teach us limitations in life.

We learn to respect boundaries that are not as cut and dry as speed limits. In most cases there are no lines in the sand. And often we like to touch the proverbial stove just to test and extend our personal limits as far as we can.

We are created to be free.

But what freedom means to each of us is defined mostly by how we interpret the pre-ordained limits of society in relation to the desires we have to extend our personal limits. Finding freedom then comes in reconciling the difference between what society says we cannot do (laws are created, of course, to keep us from infringing upon others) and what we say we cannot do.

Freedom is the space between the two.

The sooner one can reconcile their own personal limits to those that are pre-established, the sooner one can be on their way to carving up their own adventure in the margin between the two.

I Can’t Drive 55

The popular Sammy Hagar song of the 80s glorifies a speed demon that can’t see himself lowering his pace to established norms. The man found himself outside the law, so to speak, where his boundaries exceeded the pre-ordained boundaries of the speed limit.

Singing along to Hagar’s poetics, people thought it was cool to rebel. I know I sang along to the song more than once in my life.

But in driving a 24 foot truck camper for only two days it has become exceeding clear to me: I can’t drive 55.


In the foothills of north Georgia I cannot drive 55.

So get off my bumper, man!

I have one of the greatest, most powerful diesel engines ever produced for human transportation. The Ford 7.3 liter turbo diesel is considered the million-mile motor for its ability to produce power mile after mile after mile after mile.

The week before we left for the trip my friend, a Ford mechanic, showed me a work truck in his lot with the same engine that had 992,000 miles. Totally believable that my truck can not only haul the load we’re asking it to haul, but also go the distance many times over.

But don’t ask me to go 55 up a hillside or mountain. It’s just not happening.

What Else is Not Happening?

  • I am also not going to drive off the side of a dirt road while climbing up to see a potentially non-existent waterfall. Although that almost happened.
  • I am also not going to try to cross a stream only to have my wheels sink into Georgia clay. Although that almost happened too.

On this day we learned a lot about limits – both those that are pre-ordained and those personal limits within ourselves. It was our second day on the road fully loaded, still in the test-driving rig in many ways. And while we should have taken the truck and camper to spots closer to home to learn how to maneuver through tough situations, we’re kind of learning on the fly.

But that’s OK, because we’re learning.

While people behind me pushed me to drive at the speed limit, and while a desire to see a spectacular off-the-beaten-path waterfall meant I would have to fjord streams and climb mountainous dirt roads, a profound realization haunted me the entire drive: I know my limits.

Operating within the limits of others.

We come across people at all times in our lives who just don’t seem to be keeping up with our expectations for what is appropriate and normal. As practical evidence, think of the last time you passed someone on the interstate driving below the speed limit.

Did you honk or curse?

I bet at the least you craned your neck to see the driver!

While we find freedom in the space created between limits imposed on us and those we impose upon ourselves, we also have to be aware of others and the limits they have placed upon themselves.

Did you notice that the driver:

  • Had young children in the backseat?
  • Was much older than you?
  • Was driving a work vehicle?

Then go deeper into questions you could never answer about her:

  • Had she recently been in an automobile accident?
  • Had she lost a family member in an automobile accident?
  • Is she driving a car that she borrowed from a friend or family member?
  • Is she driving on her way to a mechanic appointment for the vehicle?

Signs on our car of who we are

Wearing our Signs

We don’t walk (or drive) around life with signs posted about our own personal limits. Some of us get creative at times with our bumper stickers. We might try to give people a clue about who we are and what we stand for or against.

  • If 10% is good enough for God, then it’s good enough for the IRS.
  • My other car is a plane.
  • My co-pilot is Jesus.
  • Give me liberty or give me death.
  • Eat plants not animals.
  • The list goes on.

And yet in the very impersonal moment in which we pass this driver we still know very little about the limits they place on themselves and why they drive the way they do.

A lesson from the road

I have learned a little from the road today:

  • I give bigger trucks the right away and slower cars the benefit of the doubt.
  • I’ll let two cars go ahead of me at a stop sign to keep one from being stuck behind me.
  • I’ll pull over in the right lane to let others pass, even if I have a left turn coming quickly.

I know my personal boundaries well enough to operate within a framework of freedom that permits me to choose a life that I enjoy. And I would not take that freedom from anyone else.

And from time to time I’ll still push my own boundaries – though hopefully not off the side of a mountain pass!

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