Illinois on verge of speed limit boost?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/24/2013

A bill on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk would add Illinois to the list of 27 states that authorize all vehicles to travel at least 70 mph. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

The Illinois House voted 85-30 this week to send to the governor a bill that 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. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill, SB2356, on a 41-6 vote.

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

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, has called it a “good-government bill” that would “bring Illinois in line with most of the rest of the country.”

Critics, including the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, AAA Chicago and some truckers, say higher speeds would result in higher numbers of crashes and fatalities.

“Unsafe speed and loss of control is number one (cause) for fatalities, correlates with early stats showing fatalities up 5.3 percent in 2012,” OOIDA Member Andy Young of Ridgeville, OH, posted on Twitter. “I have no doubt that the increase in highway fatalities is due to the higher speed limits nationwide.”

To address concerns about excessive speeding, Oberweis included a provision in the bill that 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 – currently 40 mph – would be a Class A misdemeanor.

If signed into law the speed change would take effect Jan. 1. If vetoed, lawmakers may be able to override the governor. The House and Senate vote tallies exceed the margins needed to override a veto.

In Maine, a new law that took effect without Gov. Paul LePage’s signature allows speeds to be boosted 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.

Previously LD654, the new law allows the transportation commissioner to raise speeds on all interstates. Engineering and safety studies will need to be conducted to determine where speeds can be increased.

Across the country in Nevada, a bill to authorize 85 mph speeds – up from 75 mph – must meet a Friday, May 24, deadline to advance from the Assembly. The Senate-approved bill, SB191, would authorize the faster speed on stretches of highway deemed appropriate by the state DOT.

Copyright © OOIDA