Washington governor: 'Not so fast' on motorist speed increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/4/2015

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has partially vetoed a bill that calls for widening the speed differential between cars and trucks along stretches of highway around the state.

State law now permits motorists to travel 70 mph on rural stretches of interstate while truck drivers are limited to 60 mph.

The governor struck a provision in the bill, HB2181, to authorize the Washington State Department of Transportation to increase the posted speed for car drivers from 70 to 75 mph while keeping truck speeds unchanged.

Inslee said the he wants to slow down what he views as a rush to increase speeds for motorists.

“An increase in allowable speeds before a thorough safety assessment is performed is simply premature,” Inslee wrote in his veto message.

“However, I am directing the Department of Transportation to consult with the Traffic Safety Commission and the State Patrol to assess whether the speed limit could be increased without any compromise in safety.”

Washington is one of 38 states to authorize speeds of at least 70 mph. However, only six states keep trucks at speeds below 70 mph.

WSDOT spokesperson Allison Camden said the agency has concerns about the push to increase the speed limit.

She told lawmakers during testimony on the bill at the statehouse that widening the speed differential between cars and trucks could create additional safety concerns on the road.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes efforts that maintain a differential in car and truck speeds.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, said that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

“Differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents,” Matousek said. “They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions, and increase inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

If the state DOT determines there are stretches of highway that would accommodate faster travel without sacrificing safety, speed changes could be posted as soon as this summer.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

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