New Hampshire bills would boost speed, road safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, January 03, 2014

New Hampshire state lawmakers will convene the new regular session next week and efforts to improve travel and safety on the state’s roadways are expected to get attention.

Two bills would raise the speed limit for cars and trucks on more highways in the state.

A new rule in effect the first of the year authorizes a boost in the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93 north of Concord. The rule change increases speeds for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the rule change brings the speed limit more in line with the habits of truckers and other drivers traveling in rural areas.

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

The first bill would authorize faster speeds on a portion of state Route 101 from Manchester to Hampton. HB1184 would authorize 70 mph travel – up from 65 mph – along the nearly 30-mile stretch of highway in southern New Hampshire.

Another bill, HB1185 would permit vehicles to drive 5 mph faster along a stretch of Interstate 89 from mile marker 5 to mile marker 55.

Critics say that lawmakers need to slow down on efforts to speed travel around the state. They want to see the effects of faster travel on I-93 before expanding authorization to other highways.

A separate bill targets lead-footed travelers. SB246 would boost penalties for driving at least 100 mph. Specifically, the worst speeders would face fines between $750 and $1,000 with loss of driving privileges between 30 and 90 days.

One more bill is intended to protect the most vulnerable people on roadways around the state.

HB1485 would increase the punishment for drivers who injure or kill someone else who is considered a “vulnerable highway user.”

The protected group would include pedestrians, bicyclists, police, fire and other emergency personnel.

Offenders who harm a vulnerable highway user would face felony charges. Specifically, violations could result in fines of $433 – up from $67.

Supporters say the bill would provide police and courts with an additional tool to better enforce existing laws so that the penalties more nearly fit the offense.

The bills can be considered during the session that begins Wednesday, Jan. 8.

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