Bill to boost speeds passes Indiana House

| Wednesday, April 06, 2005

All drivers in Indiana would be allowed to travel a little faster on various roadways in the state under a bill approved by House lawmakers Tuesday, April 5.

The bill, which passed the House 68-25, now must return to the Senate for approval of changes before heading to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The Senate version dealt only with increasing the speed limit on rural interstates from 65 mph to 70 mph for cars and from 60 mph to 65 mph for large trucks.

That bill passed the Senate 34-15. If senators don’t go along with the House changes, conferees from both chambers could be appointed to work on a compromise.

The House added provisions that would increase the speed limit on the Indiana Toll Road to 65 mph for trucks and 70 mph for cars. It also would increase speeds on rural stretches of divided, four-lane highways for all vehicles to 60 mph.

Current limits are 60 mph for trucks and 65 mph for cars on the toll road and 55 mph on four-lane roads.

The four-lane highway provision is intended to target those stretches of highway with design features similar to those of an interstate, such as grade-separated interchanges and wide lanes designed for higher speeds.

Another change made to SB217, sponsored by Sen. Greg Server, R-Evansville, would boost speeds from 55 mph to 65 mph on four stretches of road totaling about 50 miles.

The affected stretches would be U.S. 20 from the intersection with County Road 17 in Elkhart County to the intersection with U.S. 31 in St. Joseph County; and U.S. 31 from the intersection with U.S. 20 in St. Joseph County to the Indiana-Michigan boundary.

Supporters of the legislation argue better-designed vehicles and roads justify higher limits. The intent, they say, is simply to raise limits to the actual speed at which drivers are traveling.

If signed into law, the Indiana State Police would be responsible for tracking traffic fatalities so lawmakers will have data to help them evaluate the measure’s effect on highway deaths.

Senators also added a provision to the bill that would toughen penalties for road rage.

It would create a specific charge for aggressive driving for motorists who have the intent to harass or intimidate another person in a way that risks property damage or bodily injury.

Engaging in at least three acts such as honking your horn, tailgating and flashing headlights while driving could result in up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Violators could face felony charges if they injure or kill someone.

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