I agree with Giffen B. Nickol's {letters, July 9} that our 55- to 65-mph speed limits are obsolete. However, I disagree with his point about the safety of speed conformity.

When everyone travels at the same speed, vehicles tend to cluster into large groups separated by up to a half-mile. Within these groups there is constant passing and repassing with the resultant lane-changing, left-lane blocking, etc.

The autobahns of West Germany carry traffic that moves at speeds varying by as much as 60 mph in relative safety. All it takes is a watch on the rearview mirrors, respect for the desires of others and keeping the left lane open for passing.

WOODY HAIR Arlington

Giffen B. Nickol took it upon himself to enlighten us as to where the problem on our highways lies -- with the speed limit. I know better.

Though countless drivers like Mr. Nickol may argue that driving 60 mph to 75 mph is fuel efficient, humans are more efficient in emergency situations at lower speeds. Speed limits of 70 mph and 80 mph were traded in for the 55-mph limit, because a so-called limit of 80 mph equals a disastrous outcome when two cars collide. Mr. Nickol and all those who lament the loss of higher speed limits should consider whether they would rather be struck by a car traveling at 80 mph or one traveling at 50 mph.

To some of us, life is a precious commodity worth guarding. MARIJA PAVLOVICH McCARTHY Washington