Idaho approves faster speeds, continued differential

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/25/2014

A new law in Idaho will result in faster speeds in certain areas of the state while maintaining a speed differential.

Idaho law authorizes motorists to travel 75 mph on rural interstates. In 1998, large truck speeds were dropped from 75 mph to 65 mph. Speeds are 65 mph for all vehicles on state highways.

Gov. Butch Otter signed into law a bill that is touted to improve safety. Previously S1284, the new law requires engineering studies to be done and the Idaho Transportation Department to make a final decision about whether highways could handle the higher speeds, up to 70 mph on state highways and 80 mph on interstates.

However, truck speeds on affected stretches of interstates could continue to be 10 mph slower.

“The bill maintains the 10 mph differential for cars and trucks that we have today,” Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, previously told House lawmakers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to speed differentials. The Association issued multiple Calls to Action encouraging Idaho truckers to contact state lawmakers and the governor to convey the message that the only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at or near the same speed to minimize interaction between vehicles.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said that requiring trucks to drive at speeds slower than other vehicles does not promote safety. He said it does exactly the opposite by requiring vehicles to be constantly in conflict with each other.

Addressing concerns about higher speeds, Gibbs said that most motorists would continue to drive at or near the same speed they do now.

Gibbs highlighted statistics from across the state line in Utah that show most drivers on test sections of I-15 posted at 80 mph since 2009 now drive between 83 and 85 mph – up from between 81 and 85 mph before the change.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said during Senate floor discussion that Utah officials found no increase in accidents over a three-year time period along the stretch of interstate.

Davis said that data showed a “slight drop” in crash rates. He said the state credited less variation among vehicles traveling in close proximity to each other.

Spencer said that speed rules in Utah and Idaho cannot provide an accurate comparison. He pointed out that the big difference between the two states is Utah allows trucks to travel at the same speed as smaller vehicles.

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