Iowa speed bills blend stop, go

| Friday, January 30, 2004

Two measures before an Iowa Senate panel would change speed limits in the state.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Steve Kettering, R-Lake View, would push the speed limit for all vehicles on the state’s four-lane expressways from 65 mph to 70 mph and from 55 mph to 60 mph on all other primary highways. Under SF2033, cities would maintain the authorization to set lower limits.

State Sen. Maggie Tinsman, on the other hand, has introduced a measure that targets truck speeds. SF2035 would lower the maximum allowable expressway speed from 65 mph to 55 mph for vehicles with a gross weight exceeding 10,000 pounds.

“It seems very dangerous on the interstate anymore,” Tinsman, R-Bettendorf, told The Quad-City Times. “It’s almost bumper-to-bumper … and the trucks are just whizzing by you and way, way over the speed limit.”

Kettering, R-Lake View, says drivers already travel faster than 65 and 55. He argues that law should catch up with that reality.

“We have the equipment. We have the roads,” he told the newspaper.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said Tinsman’s bill requiring trucks to drive at speeds 10 mph slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on the highways. OOIDA is seeking the aid of professional truck drivers to influence lawmakers to endorse legislation maintaining uniform speeds.

“It does exactly the opposite by requiring that vehicles are constantly in conflict with each other. Lane changes and passing are constantly required to avoid crashes,” Spencer said.

“While some may suggest that having slower speed limits for trucks can somehow promote safety, there is much research to suggest otherwise. Forty states currently have uniform speed limits for all vehicles using their highways.

“By having one speed limit that all vehicles comply with you minimize the need for passing, lane changes, tailgating and other maneuvers that create opportunities for drivers to make mistakes. This isn’t physics or rocket science. It’s simple common sense that highway engineers have known and followed for decades.”

Kettering, who also opposes Tinsman’s bill, shared Spencer’s sentiment regarding uniform speeds.

“I think we need to keep the cars and trucks moving at the same speed,” Kettering told The Times.

Both bills have been forwarded to the Senate Transportation Committee.

--by Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Keith Goble can be reached at keith_goble@landlinemag.com.