Iowa speeds could get boost

| 3/1/2005

An Iowa House panel has approved a bill that would permit drivers to legally drive 70 mph on rural interstate highways in the state. But there could be a price to pay.

The House Transportation Committee voted 13-8 last week to raise the speed limit and increase fines for driving over the limit. The proposal now heads to the full House for further consideration.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, would push the speed limit for all vehicles on the state’s four-lane expressways from 65 mph to 70 mph. Under HSB80, cities would maintain the authorization to set lower limits.

Tjepkes, a former Iowa State Patrol trooper, told The Quad-City Times the stiffer fines would act as a deterrent to higher speeds.

A driver traveling 65 mph in a 55 mph speed zone now pays $43 in fines, surcharges and court costs. That would jump to $82 under the proposal.

Tjepkes said studies have shown drivers travel four-lane divided highways in Iowa at an average speed of 71 mph regardless if the posted speed limit is 65 or 70.

He discounts claims higher speeds would lead to more traffic accidents on Iowa interstates. Tjepkes said a higher posted speed limit would help drivers maintain close to the same speed and reduce passing.

“That’s where the accidents happen,” he told the newspaper.

Gov. Tom Vilsack has opposed raising the speed limit since he took office in 1999. But he does want lawmakers to hike speeding fines.

Another highway bill before the House Transportation Committee would fine drivers who linger in the left lane on highways.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Willard Jenkins, R-Waterloo, would reserve the left lane of all multilane roadways, including freeways and expressways, for drivers passing other vehicles.

HF126 would exempt drivers in the left lane to turn or exit, or if traffic prohibits the vehicle from merging back to the right.