TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — A bill that would increase the speed limit on Florida’s interstates from 70 to 75 mph are zipping through the state Legislature.
In the Senate, SB 392 sailed through committees with little opposition and is ready to be considered by the full Senate. A House bill (HB 761) has also received little opposition and has one more committee stop before being ready for a House vote.
Highway safety advocates say that if the Florida Legislature passes increases the speed limit to 75 mph there could be more crashes, injuries and deaths. Supporters say people are already driving that fast and the speed limit should reflect reality — and would actually be safer.
“If you artificially force lower speed limits on roads that can accommodate faster speed limits, what you’re going to have is a greater disparity between the fastest drivers and the slowest drivers and that’s actually a much more unsafe environment than having everybody going faster together,” Sen. Jeff Clemens said who sponsored the Senate version.
The measures would allow the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on interstate and limited access highways from 70 to 75 mph, from 65 to 70 mph on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 mph on other roads. It does not automatically raise the speed limits.
“If you look back to when we rescinded the national speed limit (of 55 mph) in the mid-’90s until now, it’s been 20 years of history and I think in only one year have fatalities actually increased. So the predictions of doom and gloom that we had in the mid-’90s just didn’t come true,” said Clemens.
But a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report showed that traffic fatalities on rural interstates increased by 10 percent in 1996, the year after the national speed limit was lifted and states were allowed to set their own standards.
Highway safety advocates fear that if there is another increase in Florida it will result in more deaths because people will drive faster and be that much more at risk of losing control. They add that higher speeds also create more violent collisions.
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