Florida bill to raise speed limits advances

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/3/2014

An effort at the Florida statehouse to authorize faster speeds on interstates and other limited-access highways took its first step toward passage. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 6-1 to advance a bill that could increase the posted speed limit on highways for all vehicles to as much as 75 mph.

Florida law authorizes cars and trucks to travel 70 mph on interstates. Drivers can travel 65 mph on highways with a divided median and 60 mph on other roadways.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, SB392 could result in an increase of allowable speeds on the types of highway by 5 mph to 75, 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

If approved, the Sunshine State would join 16 other states to authorize speeds of at least 75 mph. Only two of those states (Idaho and Montana) allow cars to travel one speed – 75 mph – while keeping trucks at a slower speed – 65 mph.

The Florida Department of Transportation would have the final say on any speed changes. The agency would be required to decide where it would be “safe and advisable” to increase the speed limit.

Brandes says the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

“This legislation allows Florida Department of Transportation traffic engineers to determine on a case-by-case basis safe and advisable speeds,” Brandes testified.

Critics, including Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, say that while it is politically popular to increase speed limits, there is a trade-off in fuel efficiency and safety.

“The highways of Florida are not the German autobahn,” Joyner told committee members.

The bill could be considered by the full Legislature once the regular session officially starts in March. If approved, new speeds could take effect as early as July 1.

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