Congress now has fragmentary but quite plausible evidence of what it got for meddling with the 55-m.p.h. speed limit last April. More death on the highways.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatalities has increased by slightly more than 50% on remote stretches of the interstate highway network where states were allowed to put speed limits back up to 65 m.p.h.
The statistics, covering three months of last summer, involve only 22 states that had by then taken advantage of the invitation to boost speed limits. In California, the fatalities on rural highways went up 47% over the year before while fatalities on other highways stayed about the same.
Congress was swayed by two shaky arguments. One was that people were speeding anyway. The other was that states, particularly in the West, were in danger of losing federal highway funds because half of their drivers were speeding.