Bills in eight states would alter speed limits

February 25, 2020

Keith Goble

|

Elected officials in states from coast to coast continue to discuss possible changes to speed limit rules. Legislators in multiple states are pursuing the enactment of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks.

California

If one California state lawmaker gets his way, the state would do away with speed limit differentials.

Currently, smaller vehicles traveling in the state are allowed to drive 65 mph – 70 mph in certain locations – while large vehicles are limited to 55 mph.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Fairfield, is behind a bill to authorize tractor-trailers and buses to travel at the same posted speeds as motorists.

Frazier’s bill, AB1999, is in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

OOIDA supports uniformity

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the effort to repeal speed differentials in the Golden State. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

In communication with the bill sponsor, Matousek highlighted recent U.S. Senate testimony by OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh.

“The underlying theme of his testimony was that there are hundreds of laws and regulations that have nothing to do with highway safety because trucking policy is often times overly influenced by people who know virtually nothing about trucking,” Matousek stated.

He adds that split speed limits are counterproductive to safety.

Research shows that a higher variance of speed increases the risk of an accident, which is why most states have eliminated split speed limits.”

In addition, Matousek said that California’s split speed limits are arguably the most dangerous because of the 15 miles per hour differential. Only four states – Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Washington – have differentials up to 10 mph.

He points out that speed differentials are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions, and increased inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.

“Not only would repealing California’s split speed limit law increase highway safety, it would improve productivity and efficiency.”

Colorado

One House bill would open the door to an increase of the speed limit on portions of rural state highways.

Colorado law permits vehicles to travel 65 mph on rural highways. Drivers on rural interstates are authorized to travel 75 mph.

The House Transportation and Local Government Committee voted to advance a bill to require the Colorado Department of Transportation to conduct a study to identify portions of rural highways where the speed limit can be safely raised by 5 mph to 70 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, HB1178 would consider factors that include whether the portion of highway is predominantly straight, the quality of the highway surface, and the amount of shoulder space on the highway.

Holtorf told the committee he is pursuing consideration of a 5 mph speed bump because “there are state highways in rural Colorado that really are wide open, and you literally drive for a long time before you see anything or anybody.”

CDOT would submit a report on their findings to the legislature’s transportation committees.

HB1178 has moved to the House floor. If approved there, it would head to the Senate.

Illinois

The Senate Transportation Committee has moved to a subcommittee two bills to raise speed limits on two of the state’s fastest roadways.

SB2565 would change the maximum speed limit to 75 mph – up from 70 mph – on interstate highways outside of urban areas.

SB2564 would increase the posted speed on noninterstate highways now set at 55 mph to 60 mph.

Iowa

The House Transportation Committee applied the brakes to a bill to bump up speeds on interstate highways from 70 to 75 mph for all drivers.

Additionally, HF2166 would increase the speed limit for all users on controlled-access, divided, multilane highways from 65 to 70 mph.

Panel members balked at projections that show the state would need to spend more than $2 million to update speed limit signs on the affected roadways. Legislators also had concerns about fuel consumption and potentially more wrecks related to speed.

Mississippi

A House bill is intended to protect the state’s top-end speed.

Mississippi now authorizes 70 mph travel on controlled access highways with at least two lanes of travel in one direction.

Sponsored by Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, HB446 would prohibit any act by the state’s transportation commission or any governmental entity to reduce the speed limit.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

Oklahoma

One Oklahoma state lawmaker has renewed an effort to boost car speeds along turnpikes.

The Sooner State permits cars and trucks to travel at 75 mph on rural four-lane divided highways, including interstates. Speeds along the state’s turnpike system can be set at 80 mph for all vehicles.

Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has introduced a bill to revise the speed rule. SB1552 specifies the speed limit for motorists traveling on the turnpike system would be increased to 85 mph during daylight hours. Trucks could continue to travel 80 mph – regardless of the time of day.

The change would only be allowed in counties with a population of 150,000 or less.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority would be allowed to declare a “special hazard” on any portion of a turnpike included in the affected area. The authority would be required to remove the hazard and restore the 85 mph speed limit for motorists within five years.

Standridge sought a similar change two years ago. His bill passed the House but failed to be considered in the Senate.

SB1552 is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

South Dakota

Temporary variable speed limits would be utilized if one bill becomes law.

The Senate voted 20-14 to advance a bill authorizing the state Department of Transportation to set differing speeds along interstate highways, under certain conditions. The bill’s next stop is the House.

SB21 reads that differing speeds would be allowed on stretches of interstate for “varying weather conditions, and any other factor that has a bearing on a safe speed.”

David Huft of the South Dakota DOT said the goals are simple.

“The solution we would like to propose is an effective way to reduce crashes, reduce deaths, reduce road closures, and maintain mobility for traffic when conditions are adverse,” Huft recently testified. “It’s not intended to be a winter speed trap.”

The bill would permit differing speed for different times of day and “different types of vehicles.”

The state DOT estimates the cost to get the program up and running at $1.5 million. Additionally, the state is expected to save about $694,000 over 15 years due to a reduction of crashes requiring incident response and repairs.

SB21 awaits assignment to committee in the House.

Vermont

If one Vermont state lawmaker gets his way, travel on the state’s fastest highways would be slowed for all vehicles.

Rep. Jim McCullough has introduced a bill to reduce the maximum speed limit on Interstates 89 and 91 from 65 mph to 55 mph.

McCullough has provided information about the bill to the House Transportation Committee. He highlighted the cost savings for driving at a slower rate of speed.

Data provided to the committee shows that optimal fuel efficiency for vehicles is dependent on travel at 55 mph. Additionally, driving at 60 mph reduces efficiency by 3%, and driving at 65 mph cuts into efficiency by 8%.

In addition to saving fuel, advocates say the lower speed limit would reduce crashes and help with climate change.

The bill, H627, awaits further consideration in the committee.

More state trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some other articles by him.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.