Split speeds eyed in New Jersey

| 1/18/2006

A New Jersey state lawmaker wasted little time this year putting together a bill that would eliminate uniform speeds on rural highways in the state and force big trucks to travel slower than other vehicles.

On the first day of the state’s two-year legislative session, Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, R-Flemington, introduced a bill calling for all trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds – and for any trucks hauling hazardous materials regardless of weight – to be slowed by 10 mph to 55 mph. All other vehicles would be allowed to continue to travel at the current 65 mph limit.

Karrow’s bill is similar to two failed efforts in the past few years by her predecessor, Assemblywoman Connie Myers. Neither bill made it out of committee.

Myers’ original proposal came after a horrific day in November 2002 when three separate accidents on Interstates 80, 287 and 78 – all involving trucks – killed three people, injured six and delayed thousands of commuters. State officials said none of the accidents were caused by truck drivers.

Gail Toth, director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, told Land Line she doesn’t foresee the outcome of this latest effort ending up differently than the previous attempts to eliminate uniform speeds.

“It would be absolutely obscene to adopt split speeds. I think most people in government understand it,” Toth said.

Split speeds are dangerous. We have very highly congested highways. We cannot have people driving at two different levels. Especially on highly truck-traveled roads. I can’t even imagine. It would be like bumper cars.”

Toth said concerns about highway safety would be better addressed simply by enforcing current regulations in the state.

“These are knee-jerk reactions to situations instead of just saying ‘let’s get more cops on the road and enforce the law in general.’ That would stop a lot of the problem,” she said.

Karrow’s effort – A1791 – has been referred to the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor