Could South Carolina speed limit soon be 80 mph?

| 12/14/2010

Since the first of the month, South Carolina lawmakers have been busy prefiling bills for consideration during the 2011 session. One topic that is getting attention is speed.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, has offered two bills for consideration during the upcoming session. One bill would give all vehicles on interstates in the Palmetto State the go-ahead to zip along at higher speeds and another would create an alternative to some speeding tickets.

The speed limit along interstates and freeways would be increased from 70 mph to 80 mph.

If approved, South Carolina would have a speed limit at least 10 mph higher than anywhere else in the Southeast. Utah and Texas are the lone states that allow certain vehicles, on specified segments of road, to travel 80 mph.

Rutherford has insisted that the change won’t cause problems because drivers are already driving around 80 mph, he previously told The State newspaper. He said the change would allow law enforcement to focus on other matters, such as aggressive and drunken driving.

It is expected to be difficult to find many people in South Carolina in favor of such a jump in speed.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member John Urban, Sumter, SC, is among those who say it is a horrible idea to ramp up the speed limit. He is concerned about the consequences a speed increase would  have on Interstate 95, which is the main corridor between the northeast and Florida.

“On 95 pretty much everybody drives 80 mph anyway. But it’s crazy,” Urban told Land Line. “There are a lot of deaths on 95. It is not necessary to have an 80 mph speed limit.”

Rutherford offered an identical bill during the previous session, but it never emerged from committee. The same committee, the House Education and Public Works Committee, will get first crack at the bill – H3158 – during the session that begins Jan. 12, 2011.

Another speed-related effort from Rutherford would alter the penalty for certain speeding violations. It also specifies where revenue would be routed.

The prefile – H3157 – would affect drivers caught speeding up to 10 mph above the posted limit. Violators could get off with a warning and avoid having their infraction reported to their insurance company. In return, offenders would be charged $150 with the proceeds split between the state’s general fund and the agency issuing the warning ticket.

“It stinks of a money grab,” Urban said. “When you make it about money and not safety I think you’re heading down a very slippery slope.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina, click here.

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