Thursday, June 05, 2008
While parsing through the Historical Abstract of the United States...
...I came across a fantastic table: Speed of Motor Vehicles on Highways, 1945 to 1970.
At first glance, I thought it was something to do with speed limits; turns out they recorded a sample of several hundred cars on "tangent sections of main rural highways during off-peak hours." They also break it down by passenger vehicles, trucks and buses, and also have a breakdown of percentage of cars exceeding 40 mph, 45mph, 50 mph, etc., all the way to 70 mph.
Clearly, there's increases in everything across the board, but the difference is pretty staggering. Passenger vehicles averaged 45 mph in 1945; they were at an over 60mph clip by 1970. 64% of cars went faster than 40mph on these roads in 1945; in 1970, 97%. 5% of cars went faster than 60 in 1945; in 1970, 47%.
When you think about the gains in an economy, you don't tend to think about vehicle speed-- but driving places faster is absolutely a gain felt across the economy, compounded by rising wages.
(We've addressed vehicle speed before. Twice. Do we need a driving category? I don't even know what to file this under otherwise.)