States act on speed limit change efforts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/10/2013

It’s been an active year at statehouses across the country with lawmakers 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.

Ohio and Utah already acted this year to increase speeds. Since July 1, speed limits in Ohio have increased from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural interstates and the Ohio Turnpike. Utah law now authorizes 80 mph speeds – up from 75 mph – on select portions of interstates 15, 80 and 84. The changes are expected to be implemented in August.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law a bill to boost the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93 north of Concord. Previously HB146, the rule change increases speeds for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border.

It takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Hassan said the rule change brings the speed limit more in line with the habits of truckers and other drivers traveling in rural areas. She also encouraged travelers in the state to obey the new speed limit.

“The limited nature of the 5-mile-per-hour speed-limit increase in a targeted region of the state ... makes me comfortable with signing this measure into law,” Hassan said in prepared remarks.

The change doesn’t apply to the Franconia Notch area, where the speed limit will remain at 55 mph.

In neighboring Maine, a new law could result in speeds being 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.

The new law authorizes 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.

An effort to raise speeds in nearby Massachusetts remains active at the statehouse. The bill – H3175 – would increase the posted speed from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural interstates and the turnpike.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn could soon make a decision on 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.

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 will result in higher numbers of crashes and fatalities.

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, 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.

SB2356 would also lower the threshold for speeding violations to increase from a petty offense to 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 North Carolina, an attempt to match Maine for the highest speeds east of the Mississippi River failed to win approval. Citing safety concerns, North Carolina House lawmakers rejected a Senate-approved bill that sought to permit the state DOT to increase the speed limit to 75 mph on certain roadways.

State law now is set at 70 mph for all vehicles on interstates and other controlled-access highways. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is authorized to set “a reasonable and safe speed limit” based on engineering and traffic levels.

SB709 would have applied to affected roadways along stretches where it is deemed appropriate for faster travel.

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