“I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics.” – Hagar on “I Can’t Drive 55”
You know why… but the HOW… the actual circumstances are a fantastic slice from Sammy Hagar’s life.
Why Did We Have to Drive 55?
The National Maximum Speed Law that set speed limits at 55 miles per hour in the US was passed in 1974. It was supposed to help reduce fuel consumption. The speed reduction did help reduce traffic fatalities. According to PMC, in the year after the National Maximum Speed Law was enacted, road fatalities declined 16.4%, from 54,052 in 1973 to 45,196 in 1974. As far as saving gas, the law didn’t make a bit of difference. Fuel consumption dropped less than 1%. The law was modified in 1987 to allow 65MPH in rural areas. In 1995, the law was repealed and states regained control of their speed limits.
Sammy Hagar wrote “I Can’t Drive” in protest after getting a speeding ticket in New York for driving 62 miles per hour on a road with a 55 miles-per-hour speed limit. What a load of crap that is. SEVEN over in a 55? Here’s an excerpt from a 1994 interview with In Studio:
Sammy Hagar –
“I was in a rent-a-car that wouldn’t go much faster than 55 miles an hour. I was on my way back from Africa. I did a safari for three months throughout Africa. A really great vacation after ‘Three Lock Box’. After traveling for 24 hours, I got to New York City, and changed planes to Albany, New York. Got in a rent-a-car. Had a place in Lake Placid at the time, a little log cabin. I used to go there and write with my little boy. Aaron, at that time, went to North Country school when I was on tour. I would go there and see him. It was a really cool getaway. But it took two and a half hours to drive there from Albany. And I was driving from Albany, New York at 2:00 in the morning, burnt from all the travel.”
“Cop stopped me for doing 62 on a four-lane road when there was no one else in sight. Then the guy gave me a ticket. I was doing 62. And he said, ‘We give tickets around here for over 60.’ And I said, ‘I can’t drive 55.’ I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics. I got to Lake Placid, I had a guitar set-up there. And I wrote that song there on the spot.”
Sammy said “I Can’t Drive 55″‘s meaning has changed for him.
In a recent interview with KVVU-TV, he said, “Originally it was a protest song about that.. I didn’t wanna go – when they lowered the speed limit,” he explained. “And now it’s a protest song that I can’t get where I’m going; I’m always late.”
“I Can’t Drive 55” was the first single and track from Hagar‘s eighth studio album, VOA (Voices of America) released in 1984.
Would you like to meet Sammy Hagar? CLICK HERE for a shot at passes to the WCSX Mas Tequila Backstage Fiesta. It’s another way we’re celebrating our 35th Anniversary at Pine Knob on August 23rd.