States advance speed increase bills

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/26/2013

State lawmakers from coast to coast are debating whether higher speed limits make sense in their respective states. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

Governors in Ohio and Utah already signed into law this year bills to increase speeds. Starting July 1, speed limits in Ohio can increase from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural interstates and the Ohio Turnpike. As of May 14, Utah law will authorize 80 mph speeds – up from 75 mph – on select portions of interstates 15, 80 and 84.

The Illinois Senate voted 41-6 this week to advance a bill that would add the state to the list of 25 states that authorize all vehicles to travel at least 70 mph. SB2356 now moves to the House.

Sponsored by Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, the bill would raise the speed limit from 65 mph on rural interstate highways and the Illinois Tollway. Speeds on divided four-lane highways wouldn’t change.

Cook and the “collar” counties surrounding Chicago, and Madison and St. Clair counties outside of St. Louis could opt out of the rule change.

Critics say higher speeds would result in higher numbers of crashes and fatalities.

Oberweis called it a “good-government bill” that would “bring Illinois in line with most of the rest of the country.”

There are 27 states that allow truckers and other drivers to travel at least 70 mph, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The bill would lower the threshold for a speeding violation to be considered a misdemeanor. Specifically, speeding 26-35 mph above the speed limit – down from 31-40 mph – would be a Class B misdemeanor. Exceeding the posted speed by more than 35 mph – down from 40 mph – would be a Class A misdemeanor.

In New Hampshire, a bill on Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk would boost the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93. HB146 would increase speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border.

The change would not apply to the Franconia Notch area, where the speed limit would remain at 55 mph.

Rep. Karen Umberger, R-Conway, notes that the change is sought for a rural section of the interstate that has been constructed to support a speed limit of 70 mph.

Efforts to raise speeds in neighboring Maine and Massachusetts remain active at the respective statehouses.

A Maine bill would boost speeds statewide from 65 mph to 75 mph. A 91-mile segment of Interstate 95 in the northernmost portion of the state already is posted at 75 mph.

As introduced, LD654 authorized fast travel on a segment of Interstate 295. The bill was amended to allow the transportation commissioner to raise speeds on all interstates.

The Massachusetts bill – H3175 – would increase the posted speed from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural interstates and the turnpike.

Across country in Nevada, Senate lawmakers signed off on a bill to authorize 85 mph speeds on stretches of highway deemed appropriate by the state DOT – up from 75 mph. SB191 now awaits Assembly consideration.

Jerry Stacy, a staff person for Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, previously told Land Line that the change would aid truckers who have a limited number of hours in the day that they can be behind the wheel.

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