Michigan House narrowly approves faster speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/6/2016

The state of Michigan is one step closer to permitting 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 voted 56-53 to advance an amended bill to alter posted speeds on the state’s roadways.

Sponsored by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, HB4423 could increase speeds for motorists on about 600 miles of rural interstates to 75 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.

Jacobsen told his colleagues prior to the floor vote the legislation would better reflect the speed that motorists already travel.

“On our highways now the average speed is around 77 mph. We have some sections of highway that (are) 83 mph,” Jacobsen said. “The roads were designed for 75. That’s the speed people feel safe traveling.”

Changes in posted speeds could only be made following traffic studies done by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police.

A provision was removed from the bill that opened the door to posting speeds as high as 80 mph. Jacobsen had attempted to settle concerns about the provision by assuring lawmakers new highways would need to be built to accommodate such speeds but the issue continued to threaten the bill’s demise.

“That was a concern so we’ve taken that out.”

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., previously provided written testimony to lawmakers that explained “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 Esler shared with lawmakers 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.”

If faster speeds are approved on the busiest highways, the Wolverine State would join 16 other states that 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.

The Michigan speed bill is part of a package of measures, HB4424-4427, that includes changes to the way the state assesses penalty points for speeding violations. The bill package awaits further consideration in the Senate.

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

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