Florida on verge of faster speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/9/2014

An effort in Florida that could soon result in faster speeds on interstates and other limited-access highways survived a close call to advance to the governor’s desk.

House lawmakers voted 58-56 on the next-to-last day of the regular session to approve a bill that could increase the posted speed limit on highways for all vehicles to as much as 75 mph. The Senate previously approved the bill on a 27-11 vote.

Since 1996, Florida law has authorized cars and trucks to travel 70 mph on interstates. Travelers can drive 65 mph on highways with a divided median and 60 mph on other roadways.

SB392 could result in an increase of allowable speeds on the types of highway by 5 mph to 75, 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, says the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

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

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.
Maine is the only state east of the Mississippi River with posted speeds in excess of 70 mph.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, referred to the bill on the House floor as “totally ridiculous.” He urged lawmakers to strike down the bill in the interest of safety.

Slosberg’s daughter Dori was killed in a 1996 crash.

“You never want to get ‘that call,’” he said. “I got the call, and one of the reasons she died was because of speed.”

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, cautioned lawmakers before the floor vote to avoid basing their decision on emotion. Instead, he urged them to use logic and reason.

“You need to consider the fact that today we have roads that are designed to handle faster speeds than what is posted.”

Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad assured lawmakers during prior testimony on the bill that his agency would only study possible speed changes in areas where conditions may warrant a change.

“The basic philosophy of speed limits is people drive the speed that they feel safe,” Prasad said at a recent hearing. “You want to set the speed closer to what people feel comfortable driving.”

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