States continue push to boost speed limits

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/14/2013

Pursuit of higher speeds is underway in statehouses from coast to coast. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

Governors in Ohio and Utah signed into law already 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. Travelers in Utah could see speeds posted at 80 mph – up from 75 mph – as early as August on select portions of interstates 15, 80 and 84.

The Illinois House could vote as early as this week to send a bill to the governor that would add the state to the list of 25 states that authorize all vehicles to travel 70 mph. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill, SB2356, on a 41-6 vote.

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 has 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 speeding violations to increase from a petty offense to a misdemeanor. Specifically, speeding between 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 Maine, a bill to allow speeds to be boosted statewide from 65 mph to 75 mph is on the governor’s desk.

A 91-mile segment of Interstate 95 in the northernmost portion of the state already is posted at 75 mph.

The Senate voted to send to Gov. Paul LePage a bill – LD654 – that would allow the transportation commissioner to raise speeds on all interstates. Engineering and safety studies would need to be conducted to determine where speeds can be increased.

Across country in Nevada, state lawmakers continue to discuss a bill to authorize 85 mph speeds on stretches of highway deemed appropriate by the state DOT – up from 75 mph.

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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