Iowa House panel advances bill to boost speeds, fines

| 3/22/2005

A bill in Iowa that would permit drivers to legally drive 70 mph on rural interstates in the state is one step away from going to the full House for a vote. But there could be a higher price to pay if the new limits are exceeded.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 16-8 March 16 to raise the speed limit on Iowa’s four-lane expressways and nearly double fines for speeding on any roads posted at 55 mph and above. The bill, which previously passed the Transportation Committee, must pass the Appropriations Committee before making its way to the House floor.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, would push the speed limit for all vehicles on portions of Interstates 80, 35 and 380 from 65 mph to 70 mph. Under HSB80, cities would maintain the authorization to set lower limits.

Tjepkes, a former Iowa State Patrol trooper, recently 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.

The revenue generated from the fine increases would be used for three years to help replace Iowa State Patrol cars.

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 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 also wants lawmakers to hike speeding fines.

Another highway bill that would fine drivers who linger in the left lane on highways has died.

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

HF126 remained in the House Transportation Committee at the deadline for bills to pass from their originating chamber.