Doh! Ohio bill would bring back split speeds

| 5/22/2009

Truckers and many others in Ohio would be well within reason to shake their fists in reaction to legislation introduced in the state’s House. Less than two months after Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law a bill doing away with split speed limits on Buckeye interstates, two state lawmakers want to bring back a speed gap.

Democratic Reps. Tim DeGeeter of Parma and Dan Dodd of Hebron have drawn the ire of truckers and others concerned about highway safety with their introduction of a bill that would allow vehicles with a gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less to drive 70 mph on rural stretches of interstates. Those vehicles now can drive up to 65 mph.

Trucks, which are required to drive 55 mph on the same portions of roadway, have been cleared to travel 65 mph starting July 1.

The bill sponsors say one of the benefits of a 5 mph differential is it would allow motorists to go faster around trucks.

“I think some of it’s a safety issue. They feel safer if they are able to get around trucks,” Dodd told WCMH-TV in Columbus, OH.

The lawmaker’s response went over like a lead balloon with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The Association is opposed to speed differentials. Research collected by OOIDA concludes that the difference in vehicle speeds, not excessive speed, contributes to accidents. Collisions occur when trucks and cars must change lanes and pass more frequently.

“The only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice-president.

Ohio truckers have been firm in their reaction to the effort to bring back split speeds.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Art Carpenter of Goshen, OH, said with uniform speeds slated for implementation in about six weeks it would be a shame not to be able to see the safety effects.

Carpenter also said that Dodd’s argument that cars feel safer being able to get around trucks doesn’t pass muster with him.

“I don’t think that’s smart. I don’t think he can justify that. I never felt that way in a car – that I need to be faster than trucks,” Carpenter told Land Line. “A lot of people get behind a truck and the first thing they’re going to try to do is try to pass it, even if it’s going 65 mph. Some people think that way, but I don’t know if that’s the proper thinking.”

The plan already faces opposition from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. For years the state police wanted no part of allowing large trucks to drive faster than 55 mph. Their concern is that faster trucks lead to more problems.

The patrol has expressed similar concern about the proposal to allow motorists to drive 70 mph.

The bill – HB162 – is in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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