Bill to boost Iowa speeds heads to governor

| Thursday, April 14, 2005

Drivers on Iowa’s rural interstates would be allowed to hold down the accelerator a little further under a bill that cleared the state Senate Wednesday, April 13. In exchange, there could be a heftier price to pay if speed limits are exceeded.

Senators voted 27-23 to pass the bill onto Gov. Tom Vilsack. It previously passed the House 51-49.

Under the bill, the speed limit on Iowa’s four-lane expressways would increase from 65 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles on July 1.

Speeding fines and fees on roads posted at 55 mph and above would nearly double. A $600,000 annual share of the revenue generated would be used to help replace Iowa State Patrol cars during the next four years, The Quad-City Times reported.

The court system would get more than $7 million a year from the additional fines and fees.

As the bill moved through the House and Senate, opponents contended the higher limit would lead to more accidents. Supporters said the measure was about safety – ensuring more vehicles on the road travel at similar speeds.

Rep. Dave Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, recently told the newspaper studies have shown that drivers travel interstate highways in Iowa at an average speed of 71 mph regardless of whether the posted speed limit is 65 or 70.

He discounts claims that 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.

Tjepkes, a former Iowa State Patrol trooper, said the stiffer fines would act as a deterrent to higher speeds.

Vilsack has yet to take a public stand on the issue. He has opposed raising the speed limit in past years, although he supports higher speeding fines to help fund Iowa’ courts and the State Patrol.

The governor can either sign or veto the bill – HF826. But because it includes budget provisions, he also could use a line-item veto to remove parts he doesn’t like.

A decision is expected soon. Vilsack has three days to act once the bill hits his desk.

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