Effort would increase Wisconsin speeds

| 8/23/2005

A bill in the Wisconsin Legislature would allow drivers on certain highways in the state to cruise along at speeds 10 mph faster than the current limit.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, the measure would raise the state’s 65 mph speed limit on rural interstates and expressways to 75 mph.

“We have an artificially low speed limit at 65,” Reynolds recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, noting that drivers already exceed that limit.

He said the higher limit would lead to safer roads because all drivers would travel at the same speed.

Opponents, including chairs of the Assembly and Senate transportation panels, have raised concerns that the move could increase traffic fatalities. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle also cited safety concerns when asked about the effort.

Eric Skrum, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, a Wisconsin-based group, said his organization supports the higher limit.

“This is going to make the roads safer,” Skrum told Land Line.

The National Motorists Association advocates setting the speed limit at the “85th percentile,” the top speed traveled by 85 percent of drivers.

On rural freeways in the state, Skrum said that is 75 mph – a figure verified by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He said raising the speed limit from 65 would mean that more people would be driving the same speed.

“Traffic will flow much smoother. You will have less weaving in and out of traffic, less tailgating and less congestion because the majority of the traffic is going roughly the same speed. It’s a safer driving environment,” Skrum said. “Speed doesn’t kill. It’s the speed differential that causes accidents.”

The bill – SB270 – is in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Transportation.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor