Michigan speed bills near halfway point at statehouse

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/18/2016

A legislative effort under review on the Michigan House floor calls for changing the state’s speed limit rules to 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.

The full House is in the process of considering bills to alter posted speeds on the state’s roadways. Sponsored by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, the lead bill in the package could increase speeds for motorists on about 600 miles of rural interstates to 75 mph, and as much as 80 mph, while trucks would be authorized to drive up to 10 mph below the posted speed limit for cars.

Urban interstates could be posted at 70 mph for motorists and 60 mph for trucks. State trunk lines could have speeds boosted from 55 mph to 60 mph for all users.

Changes in posted speeds could only be made following traffic studies done by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police. HB4423 would also require any speed changes to reflect the rate at which 85 percent of traffic travels on a given stretch of road.

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

OOIDA Life Member Bob Esler of Taylor, Mich., said in written testimony previously provided to lawmakers that “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.”

He added that “they are also a contributing factor to increased congestion and inefficiencies with local, regional and national goods movement.”

Another concern shared by Esler focused on the use of speed limiters used by some motor carriers. He said permitting cars to travel up to 80 mph while some trucks are generally capped at 65 mph would be “a significant step backward for the safety of the traveling public.”

Jacobsen pointed out during discussion on the House floor that authorization for 80 mph is unlikely. He said existing highways would need to be redesigned to handle such speeds.

A related effort on the House floor would reform how the state sets speed limits. In addition to relying on engineering and safety studies, HB4425 would use the 85th percentile rule to set speeds on roadways throughout the state.

“This is a fantastic combination of safety and common-sense upgrades to our outdated speed limit laws,” Jacobsen stated.

If faster speeds are approved on the busiest highways, 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.

Also included in the bill package are measures, HB4426 and HB4427, to change the way the state assess penalty points for speeding violations.

If approved on the House floor, the bill package would advance to the Senate for further consideration.

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

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