New Jersey bill would set ‘fact-based’ speed limits

May 8, 2020

Keith Goble

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One New Jersey Senate bill calls for overhauling how speed limits are set on the state’s busiest roadways.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, has renewed his pursuit to change the formula for setting speed limits. Specifically, he wants limits on limited-access highways that include the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to be set using the 85th percentile formula.

New Jersey bill would set ‘fact-based’ speed limits
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, wants the state to change how it sets speed limits on its fastest roadways using the 85th percentile formula, including the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

The formula bases speed limits on the rate at or below which 85% of drivers are traveling.

“Right now virtually 100% of drivers on our underposted limited-access highways are breaking the law,” O’Scanlon said in previous remarks. “Either they/we are all reckless, homicidal maniacs, or our method of setting speed limits is seriously flawed.”

If approved, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and other state traffic agencies would use 85th percentile studies to set speed limits. State agencies would reevaluate speed limits at least every decade, or when a road is substantially changed.

O’Scanlon says adopting the formula is a better option for setting top speeds than relying on politicians and officials to make the correct decision.

“My position is that we need to remove legislators and bureaucrats from the speed limit setting process and empower highway traffic safety engineers to do their jobs unencumbered by political influence,” O’Scanlon has stated.

Critics say drivers face multiple distractions while behind the wheel. They voice concerns that decreased reaction times due to distractions and possible faster speeds would make wrecks more devastating.

O’Scanlon says he is not looking to change how fast people drive.

“We are talking about having speed limits reflect the speeds people are already driving so that we have a better, more uniform flow of traffic.”

He adds that the change would result in “the smoothest, safest level of traffic flow and inflict the least amount of arbitrary punishment on people behaving reasonably.”

Also included in the bill is a provision to limit fines for speeding violations. Citations handed out for speeding on a roadway where a traffic study has not been completed would be limited to $20.

The bill, S608, awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee. O’Scanlon offered the same bill during the previous two-year session, but it did not come up for a vote.

More Land Line coverage of news from New Jersey is available.

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.