Opponents of ending split speed limit speak out at Ohio hearing

| 10/10/2003

Opponents of eliminating the split speed limit in Ohio had their opportunity to be heard Oct. 8 in Columbus, OH.

Testifying for the state patrol was Col. Paul McClellan, superintendent. He told The Toledo Blade the patrol opposed a change in state law because it would increase vehicle stopping distances. McClellan also said that 74 percent of tickets issued to truckers were for speeds of 66 mph and above and another 2,500 tickets were written for speeds of 75 mph and above.

He also cited that the number of trucks involved in fatal crashes in the state have declined from 201 in 1995 to 161 in 2001.

Also testifying against eliminating the differential speed limit was the Ohio Conference of AAA clubs and Columbus truck driver Robert Vermatten. Vermatten said most trucks could run 65 mph now without problems from the patrol.

Ohio has the fifth highest volume of truck traffic in the United States.

“Given the amount of truck travel in our state, it is crucial that we implement strategies that will continue to decrease accidents and protect all motorists on Ohio’s roadways,” bill sponsor Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, said in a recent statement. “Many states have a uniform speed limit for cars and trucks and have seen a decrease in certain types of accidents.”

“The patrol is using data to its maximum advantage,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “And there’s a little spin involved, too.

“For instance, the 20 percent reduction in truck crashes did occur in Ohio, but not really over the seven-year period they imply,” he said. “Fatality accidents with truckers were pretty flat from 1993 through 1999. Truck accidents went down in the state 20 percent in 2000 and 2001. The split speed limit was in effect during all those years.

“The more likely reason is economic activity,” Spencer said. “The years 2000 and 2001 were pretty tough for truckers. Many trucks were repossessed. Other trucks were parked because of the slow economy.

“Likewise, the patrol squeezes all the mileage possible out of truck stopping distances,” he said. “While it is certainly true that truck stopping distances increase as the truck goes faster, it is also true that cars are three to four times more likely to run into the backs of trucks. And no one is talking about stopping distances for cars.”