I Can't Drive 55

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"I Can't Drive 55"
I Cant Drive 55.jpg
Single by Sammy Hagar
from the album VOA
Released1984 (1984)
GenreHard rock
Songwriter(s)Sammy Hagar
Producer(s)Ted Templeman

"I Can't Drive 55" is the lead single and first track from Sammy Hagar's eighth studio album VOA in 1984. Perpetuated by a very successful music video, it became a concert staple that continued throughout Hagar's tours as a member of Van Halen. The song is a reference to the since-repealed National Maximum Speed Law that set speed limits at 55 miles per hour (89 km/h) in the United States.

It is the 100th song on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.[1]

Song origin[edit]

Hagar wrote the song in response to receiving a speeding ticket in New York State, for driving 62 mph (100 km/h) on a road with a 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit, which was the highest permissible speed limit in the United States at the time due to the National Maximum Speed Law enacted in 1974. According to 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. I was traveling for 24 hours, I got to New York City, changed planes, 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. Burnt."

— Sammy Hagar, 1994[2]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video was directed by Gil Bettman.[3] The video was shot on location at the Saugus Speedway in Santa Clarita, California.

The song's video includes Hagar and his band being chased and jailed by the California Highway Patrol for traffic violations. The video shows Hagar driving a black Ferrari 512 BBi which is later tuned up by Hagar's mechanic, Claudio Zampolli. Zampolli was driving the Ferrari during the video's opening shot, where the Ferrari fish-tails across the speedway. Hagar claims in the commentary for the video on the DVD, The Long Road to Cabo that he burned out his clutch during the video. Hagar drove a 512, but a 308 was also used. Hagar claims it cost him $5800 to fix.

A trial scene is presided over by a judge played in a cameo appearance by John Kalodner. The judge's props were borrowed from director Robert Zemeckis, director of the 1980 film Used Cars. Sets were built and the video was shot during the summer. There was no air conditioning in the jailhouse set, so the cast and crew were hot.

The yellow jumpsuit, worn by Hagar in the video, can be seen at the New Orleans Hard Rock Cafe. A stuntman was used for Hagar's stunts. An exploding ramp was used to throw Hagar across the courtroom.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "I Can't Drive 55" (Sammy Hagar) – 4:12
  2. "Dick in the Dirt" (Sammy Hagar) – 4:19

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1984-85) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[4] 26

Additional placements[edit]

The song has been a signature track for Hagar during and after his tenure with Van Halen, and is commonly used on TV programs and commercials related to automotive racing.

  • Most recently, the song was featured in a NAPA Auto Parts commercial, where NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and teammate Dale Jarrett are asking Hagar to keep the noise down during a recording session; in response, Hagar asked Waltrip if he could drive faster. Waltrip's car number at the time of the 2007 commercial was No. 55 and he had failed to qualify for some races.
  • In 2001, NBC Sports had Hagar record a "corrected" version titled "I Can't Drive 65", reflecting the common 65 miles per hour (105 km/h) speed limit on freeways at that time (six years after the National Maximum Speed Law was repealed), for use during Budweiser Pole Award presentations on Winston Cup Series broadcasts on NBC and TNT. It was used from 2001 to 2003 during the broadcasts.
  • The accelerated version of the song was also available as a download for NHL Rivals 2004.
  • The song was the opening theme for ESPN's NASCAR coverage for the 2012 season.
  • The song is featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades and Guitar Hero Live.
  • "I Can't Drive 55" was an achievement and Easter egg found in Forza Motorsport 4 for driving a 1984 Ferrari GTO faster than 125 mph, in homage to the 1984 Ferrari 512 BBi used in the music video and the "Write me up for 125" line in the song.
  • The song is featured in an R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 US commercial.
  • The song is featured in the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II, when Marty McFly discovers he has returned to an alternate, hellish version of 1985 Hill Valley, replete with strip joints, pawn shops, and in the center of it all, a huge 27-story casino hotel called "Biff's Pleasure Paradise", featuring villain Biff Tannen's face. At other points of the film and in its predecessor, Marty goes back to the year 1955 by driving in a time machine in the form of a very fast car. [5]
  • The song is featured in the 1985 film Moving Violations when Scott Greeber and Stephanie McCarty borrow a car and go cruising at high speeds.[6]
  • The song is on the soundtracks of NBA 2K18 and Twisted Metal.
  • The song is used in the 2018 film Bumblebee.
  • The song is played when Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings and Noah Hanifin of the Calgary Flames score goals at home.
  • In 2021, Sammy Hagar performed this song live at the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway during the warmup lap before the race began.[7]

Pop culture[edit]

The American punk rock band Minutemen named their album Double Nickels on the Dime as a protest against the song. [8]


  1. ^ "spreadit.org". Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2009.
  2. ^ Hagar, Sammy. In The Studio. April 25, 1994
  3. ^ "Sammy Hagar - "I can't drive 55"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 364.
  5. ^ IMDB. "Back to the Future Part II (1989)". IMDB.com. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  6. ^ "Moving Violations (1985) - Soundtracks - IMDb".
  7. ^ Roberts, Andrew (June 13, 2021). "Sammy Hagar's NASCAR All-Star Race Performance Has Fans Confused But Revved Up". PopCulture. Archived from the original on June 14, 2021. Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  8. ^ Azerrad, 2001. p. 82

Further reading[edit]