Illinois joins 70 mph club

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Truckers and others using Illinois’ rural roadways and tollways will soon be authorized to drive a little faster than they are used to traveling.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law on Monday, Aug. 19, to raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural four-lane highways and the Illinois Tollway. The change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Illinois becomes the 28th state to allow truckers and other drivers to travel at least 70 mph, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America,” Quinn said in a news release.

The number of highways where new speeds are authorized could change in the months ahead. Cook and the “collar” counties surrounding Chicago, and Madison and St. Clair counties outside of St. Louis can opt out of the rule change.

Quinn said the opt-out option allows counties to make adjustments based on their own local needs.

Critics said higher speeds will result in higher numbers of crashes and fatalities.

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said the interstates were designed for the higher rate of speed. He said the change “updates our law to reflect the reality of current driving speeds in Illinois and other states.”

Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said he anticipates that the change will improve congestion near his district.

“Thousands of drivers travel on Southern Illinois’ interstates each day, and the higher speed limit will hopefully help reduce traffic congestion,” Forby stated.

Previously SB2356, the new law also lowers the threshold by 5 mph 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.

“I urge all drivers to continue to respect traffic laws, avoid distractions and use common sense behind the wheel,” Quinn tweeted after signing the bill into law.

Another bill signed into law cracks down on travelers who flick their used cigarettes out the window.

HB3243 adds cigarette butts to the list of items that a person can be charged with littering. The violation carries a maximum fine of $1,500 and up to 180 days behind bars.

To make matters worse, a judge is authorized to require violators to pick up litter along roadways for 30 days.

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