Michigan approves faster speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/6/2017

Faster speeds could soon be posted along more than 1,500 miles of Michigan’s rural roadways.

Michigan law 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.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law on Thursday, Jan. 5, to alter posted speeds on many of the state’s roadways – while maintaining the speed differential on the fastest roadways.

Previously HB4423, the new law 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.

Another 900 miles of U.S. and state-numbered highways could have speeds boosted from 55 mph to 65 mph for all users.

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

Specifically, the departments would conduct traffic safety and engineering studies to determine whether at least 85 percent of motorists are already driving at the proposed, increased speeds.

“Ensuring that all Michiganders are safe while operating vehicles on our state’s roadways is critically important,” Snyder said in prepared remarks. He added that the new law allows for “appropriately increased speed limits on certain roadways after safety studies are conducted.”

Studies must be wrapped up and new speed signs posted within one year.

Areas of roadways that would require major design and infrastructure changes are not be eligible for faster speeds.

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

The Association provided written testimony to lawmakers as the legislation made its way through the statehouse, which explained 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.”

With the governor’s signature, Michigan joins 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.

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

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