Former FMCSA official Cirillo tells Illinois governor: End split speeds

| 6/27/2003

Former federal safety official Julie Cirillo has written a letter to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich urging him to sign HB1186, a bill that would overturn the state’s split speed limits.

Cirillo, former assistant administrator and chief safety officer for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, wrote in the letter that “there is NO definitive research which relates accident, injury, and fatality rates to speed limits.” 

“I have conducted research on operating speed and safety, and because of definitive research results have long supported the policy of uniform speed limits,” she wrote.

Illinois has the longest running split speed limit in the nation. HB1186, introduced by Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Sparta, would end the lower limit for trucks on interstates in every part of the state except urban areas. It passed the Senate 45-9 on May 7 and was approved in the House 86-18 in March.

Currently, vehicles with a gross weight of more than 8,000 pounds travel at 55 mph on the state’s highways, while other vehicles are limited to 65 mph. Under the new bill, all vehicles would face a 65-mph speed limit, except in urban areas.

However, Blagojevich has not yet acted for or against the measure, and, under Illinois law, he has until Aug. 5 to make his decision. While the state has awaited his decision, groups both favoring and opposing the measure have started to lobby the governor. The AAA Chicago Motor Club, in a release earlier this month, announced its opposition to the measure. 

Cirillo, who announced her departure from her federal post about a year ago, has spoken out previously against split speeds. She recently testified in Ohio in favor of ending split speeds in that state. She said both in her Ohio testimony and in her letter to Blagojevich that interstates – the very highways that typically have split speeds – are already the safest highways without the splits.

“Jurisdictions should always take those actions that enhance safety,” she wrote to Blagojevich. “There is sound research (repeated over the last 30 years) that confirms drivers are safer operating at or about the average speed of all traffic. Split speed limits (if observed) encourage drivers to operate at differentials of 5-15 mph. If the split speed limits are enforced the situation becomes worse. If not enforced, why have them at all.

“In the interest of safety for both Illinois citizens and those of us who visit Illinois I urge you to sign this legislation.”

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at