Indiana Legislature OKs bill to boost speeds

| Tuesday, April 26, 2005

All drivers in Indiana would be allowed to travel a little faster on various roadways in the state under a bill easily approved by state lawmakers Monday, April 25. It now heads to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature.

The bill – SB217 – calls for increasing the speed limit to 65 mph for large trucks and 70 mph for all other vehicles on rural interstates and the Indiana Toll Road. Limits on rural stretches of divided, four-lane highways would increase for all vehicles to 60 mph.

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

Another provision 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 line.

Opponents say higher speed limits would drive up the cost of auto insurance and result in more traffic fatalities.

Supporters 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.

Mindful of the opposition, a provision in the bill would require the Indiana State Police to log traffic fatalities that occur on interstates and divided highways so lawmakers will have data to help them evaluate the measure’s effect on highway deaths. Also, the Indiana Department of Transportation could maintain current speeds on some highways or parts of them.

Another provision was dropped from the final version that would have toughened penalties for road rage.

If signed into law, the state highway department would need to replace or add about 2,000 speed limit signs – at a cost of about $150,000, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Drivers are expected to get the green light to drive a little faster starting July 1.

Indiana isn’t the only Midwestern state to advance legislation this year to increase speed limits.

In Iowa, Gov. Tom Vilsack recently gave his blessing to allowing drivers on rural stretches of interstate highways in the state to hold down the accelerator a little further.

Starting in July, drivers along the affected highways will be allowed to drive 70 mph, up 5 mph from the current limit. In exchange, there will be a heftier price to pay if speed limits are exceeded.

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