Michigan speeds under review at statehouse

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/15/2015

A Michigan state lawmaker is pursuing changes in the state’s speed limit rules that would authorize truckers and other highway users to drive faster – while maintaining the speed differential on the state’s fastest roadways.

Michigan law now authorizes 70 mph speeds for motorists on certain highways while large trucks are limited to 60 mph. On other major roadways the speeds are 65 mph and 55 mph, respectively.

Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, is behind the bill that would alter posted speeds. HB4423 could increase speeds for motorists on rural interstates to 80 mph while trucks could be authorized to drive 70 mph.

Urban interstates could be posted at 70 mph for all users while state highways could be posted at 65 mph. County highways could be posted at 60 mph.

Permitted speeds through construction zones would also be changed. Speeds on highways with only one lane open to traffic would be set at 60 mph. If construction workers are present without a barrier separating them from traffic, the speed would be set at 45 mph.

A provision included in the bill would authorize for changes in speeds to be made if it determined to be warranted following studies by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

“Differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to unlawful or dangerous passing, aggressive driving, and ultimately an increase in the number and severity of accidents,” said Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs. “They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion and inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

A related effort underway would reform how the state sets speed limits. HB4425 would rely on the 85th percentile rule to set speeds on roadways throughout the state.

Jacobsen says the change would use scientific data rather than emotions to determine speed limits.

“Our speed laws will be updated to reflect the speed at which 85 percent of motorists are already safely driving at,” Jacobsen said in a news release. “Studies show when the majority of traffic is traveling at the same speed, traffic flow improves and fewer accidents occur.”

If approved, the Wolverine 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 – 80 mph – while keeping trucks at a slower speed – 70 and 65 mph, respectively.
Maine is the only state east of the Mississippi River with posted speeds in excess of 70 mph.

HB4423 and HB4425 are in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

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