New Hampshire safety bills: thumbs up, thumbs down

| 2/20/2008

A New Hampshire House panel rejected a bill that called for changing speed limits and lane use fines in the state.

With unanimous consent, the House Transportation Committee voted to kill a bill – HB1524 – that sought to increase speed limits on interstates and divided highways in the state from 65 mph to 70 mph. The 5-mph boost also would have applied to the Everett, Spaulding and Blue Star turnpikes where there are at least two lanes of traffic in each direction.

If approved, the state would have had higher speed limits than anywhere else in New England. Fines for speeding in the state would have remained the same.

Opponents said higher speed limits would make travel less safe. They also cited concerns about increased pollution.

Supporters said changing the speed limit would increase safety on the state’s highways. They cited the “natural tendency” of many people to drive 72 mph. Increasing the posted limit in the state would bring the rule there in line with what people already want to drive, they said.

Sponsored by Rep. David Smith, D-Nashua, the bill included another provision that specified the fine for violating the state’s rule for keeping to the right on multi-lane roadways except to pass.

Violating the rule would have resulted in a warning. Subsequent offenses would have carried $50 fines.

Opponents said no record is kept of warnings so fines could never be issued.

Another bill – HB1235 – still in the House Transportation Committee would add emergency road service vehicles to the list of personnel that state law requires motorists and truckers to maintain a safe distance upon approach. The rule is designed to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops.

One more bill addresses upkeep at highway rest areas and welcome centers. Responsibility for the construction, operation and maintenance of facilities would be transferred from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

The measure – HB1377 – is in the House Public Works and Highways Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2008, click here.