Bills in five states would alter speed limits

January 18, 2021

Keith Goble

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Elected officials in states from North Dakota to Vermont are pursuing revisions to speed limit rules. Changes include the elimination of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks, increased speeds for all vehicles, and one state with legislation to slow all traffic.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are allowed to travel at the same rate of speed. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Indiana

A renewed effort at the Indiana statehouse would do away with a speed limit differential on the state’s fastest roadways.

Indiana law now permits cars to drive 70 mph while vehicles in excess of 26,000 pounds are limited to 65 mph.

Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, has introduced legislation in at least four of the past five legislative sessions to do away with the speed limit gap on rural stretches of interstates. Each of his previous attempts failed to advance from the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

If approved, the Indiana Department of Transportation previously reported that 68 speed limit signs with the 65 mph restriction would need to be changed.

A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill notes that the expense to the state to change signs would be about $9,000. In addition, it is estimated the switch could result in fewer speeding citations.

The bill, HB1029, is in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

Maryland

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to soon consider a bill intended to reduce abrupt changes in speed limits for vehicles entering or exiting Interstate 495. The roadway has a posted speed limit of 55 mph.

Sponsored by Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George, the bill would require that all expressways and interstate highways that connect with I-495 have the same maximum speed limit at the point of connection for at least 5 miles from the point of entrance to or exit from the roadway.

Benson has said the change is needed to avoid sudden speed changes. She notes that highway speeds can differ by as much as 15 mph in certain areas.

During committee discussion on the topic three years ago, she said more consistency in posted speeds would help reduce congestion and the frequency of wrecks caused by abrupt changes in speed limits.

The bill also calls for signs to be posted at least every 5 miles.

The bill, SB297, is scheduled for a committee hearing on Jan. 27.

North Dakota

One North Dakota House bill would increase speed limits for all drivers along certain highways.

State law now authorizes speeds of 75 mph on Interstates 29 and 94. Speed limits along four-lane divided highways are set at 70 mph. Two-lane highways are posted at 65 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, HB1315 would authorize vehicles to travel 80 mph on interstates. Another provision in the bill would set the minimum speed on affected roadways at 40 mph.

A similar effort during the previous regular session was killed on the House floor via a tie vote. The bill included a provision to increase speeds along four lane divided highways to 75 mph.

Advocates at the statehouse say the change would allow for more efficient travel through the state. Supporters add that nearby South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming already permit 80 mph travel.

Koppelman’s bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

South Carolina

A South Carolina bill addresses concern about slow traffic on the state’s fastest highways.

State law prohibits slow vehicles from impeding “the normal and reasonable movement” of traffic. Exceptions are made for when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation and local authorities also are authorized to establish minimum speed zones. Affected areas can be set when an engineering and traffic investigation shows that slow speeds on a portion of highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, has introduced a bill to raise the minimum speed limit along the state’s interstates. Specifically, the bill reads that along highways with a maximum posted speed of 70 mph the minimum speed limit would be 50 mph – up from 45 mph.

The bill, H3155, is in the House Education and Public Works Committee.

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 again introduced a bill to reduce the maximum speed limit on Interstates 89 and 91 from 65 mph to 55 mph.

McCullough provided information one year ago to the House Transportation Committee. He highlighted the cost savings for driving at a slower rate of speed.

Data provided to the committee showed 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 committee did not advance the legislation. The renewed effort, H8, will also start in the committee. LL

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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.