Split speeds sought on Sooner State turnpikes

By Keith Goble
state legislative editor


With the memory of a deadly wreck involving a tractor-trailer this past summer still fresh in his mind, an Oklahoma lawmaker wants to slow large trucks by 10 mph along turnpikes in the state.

Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, is the sponsor of a bill that would reduce the speed limit for big rigs on the state’s turnpikes from 75 mph to 65 mph. All other vehicles would be allowed to continue to drive along at the current speed limit.

Garrison wrote the bill in response to an incident along the Will Rogers Turnpike. The wreck in June 2009 killed 10 people after a tractor-trailer struck six vehicles stopped because of an earlier wreck.

Oklahoma law now leaves decisions on turnpike speeds up to the Department of Public Safety. The Turnpike Authority first must recommend any change to speeds, and the DPS is required to sign off on it.

Opponents say that requiring trucks to drive at speeds slower than other vehicles does not promote safety. They say it does exactly the opposite by requiring vehicles to be constantly in conflict with each other.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Karin Morrison of Healdton, OK, was firm in her reaction to how split speeds affect safety.

“It would not be good at all. It causes lots of problems. Trucks can never get anywhere because cars cut them off. Trucks would have a horrible time getting where they’re supposed to go safely,” Morrison told Land Line. “They need to have the same speed limits for trucks and cars.”

Morrison said lawmakers would be less likely to offer such bills if they had a better understanding of the issue.

“People who make laws need to sit behind the wheel and start driving themselves before they dictate to others. They need to get involved and learn more about it,” Morrison said.

Garrison’s bill – SB1317 – could be considered during the session that began Feb. 1. With Oklahoma lawmakers back at work, OOIDA encourages truckers in the state to be active in the legislative process.

“Oklahoma members may want to share their thoughts on this issue with their lawmakers,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. LL