The Arizona House is reviewing a bill intended to make
highways safer by altering speed limits in certain areas. It previously approved
by the state Senate.
Sponsored by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, the bill
would allow the state highway department to increase speeds on rural highways
beyond the 75 mph limit.
Verschoor said roadways are safer when people drive about
the same speed, a view generally shared by OOIDA officials.
“The dangerous speed is where we have speed
differentiation,” he said, where some drivers are traveling at or below the
posted limit while others are going with the flow of traffic at a higher speed.
“That’s where you have the highest opportunity for
collisions,” Verschoor told the Arizona Daily Star. “You have people
switching lanes a lot to get around to pass, you have dangerous passing, and
every time one vehicle passes another vehicle that creates a dangerous
Opponents say higher speeds will lead to more accidents.
Verschoor pointed out the bill would simply permit, but not
require, Arizona’s transportation director to make the change.
If approved by House lawmakers, the bill – SB1330 – would go
to Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Meanwhile, the Senate voted 16-11 to reject a separate
speed-limit proposal offered by Verschoor.
SB1324 sought to use majority rules to determine the speed
drivers in Arizona can travel on state roads and freeways.
It required the transportation director to set the speed
limit on state highways at what 85 percent of the drivers are traveling at now.
The 85th percentile rule is widely used and accepted among traffic engineers as
a method for setting speed limits.
If most drivers are exceeding currently posted speeds, the
limits would be raised.
The bill covered multilane interstate highways, as well as
all numbered two-lane roads throughout the state.
ADOT officials have said they already take into
consideration the 85th percentile rule. They say traffic volume, roadway
conditions and crash history must also be considered to set safe speed limits.
But Verschoor told the newspaper he doesn’t believe the
agency is giving the current practices proper weight.
A third measure offered by Verschoor is awaiting
consideration before the full Senate.
SB1321 would lower the number of points added to people’s
driving records when they are caught speeding. Under current law, a speeding
ticket accumulates three points against a driver’s license; the bill would cut
that to one.
With mandatory license suspension starting at 12 points, a
chronic lead-footed driver could rack up 11 speeding tickets in a 12-month
period without losing driving privileges.
A fourth bill sponsored by Verschoor would boost speed
limits to 80 mph on highways. SB1329, however, remains in the Senate
Transportation Committee for further discussion.