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Safety advocates slam bill to raise highway speed limit

Raising the speed limit even five miles on rural stretches of Florida’s roads could lead to more fatalities and injuries, according to a law enforcement official, consumer group spokesman and safety council official, who held a press conference Thursday to oppose a bill that would increase limits in certain areas.

“If this law passes and 100 more people die in Florida as a result of a higher speed limits, that would not surprise me,” said John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives for the National Safety Council.

Ulczycki was joined by Walter Dartland, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, and Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel, who all want to block SB 392, which was proposed by Senators Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

The legislation, said Clemens, allows engineers at the Florida Department of Transportation to evaluate highways in rural areas, “basically where there are no population centers of more than 5,000 people,” to determine whether the speed limit could be increased by five miles per hour.

The proposed law, for instance could raise the speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour on interstates and other limited access highways. The measure, said Clemens, “bases speed limits on science rather than emotion. ... Traffic fatalities have reduced markedly since we did away with the national speed limit in the 90s.”

Clemens and Brandes say the law would better reflect the speed that motorists actually drive and that traveling with traffic is safer for motorists, while opponents say raising the speed limit would just cause motorists to drive faster.

 

“What we have seen across the country is when speed limits are raised, people will drive faster because they can,” Ulczycki said. “But they’re not just driving the speed limit they will continue to drive on average five to seven miles above the speed limit and so when you’re talking about raising the speed limit five miles an hour, you’re going to raise the entire average speed well above what that speed limit is.”

Echoing that sentiment, Dartland said the bill was a "bad" idea. "If the speed limit is raised, drivers will probably be “hitting over 80 and possibly 90 miles per hour. It seems to me we don’t want to have that risk.”

A press release from Brandeis office quotes John Bowman, communications director for the National Motorists Association, stating that “since 1995, speed limits have steadily increased on highways to 70, 75 or more. During that period of time, the national highway fatality rate has fallen 36 percent. This is because free flowing traffic is safer.”

The bill's sponsors state that 17 other states have speed limits above 70 miles per hour. 

There’s no argument that traffic fatalities have decreased in Florida. From 2007 to 2011 (the last year before reporting methods changed), the number of crashes in the state dropped from 256,206 to 227,998, a drop of 11 percent, according to numbers from the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles. Fatalities during the same period dropped 25 percent, from 3,221 to 2,400.

Those on both sides of the issue stress there are many factors causing this drop, including better road design and construction and safety improvements in cars.

Creel added a human element to the numbers, describing the heartbreak of traffic fatalities. “I’ve seen what it does to families,” said the sheriff, who was a Florida Highway Patrol trooper for 30 years. “I’ve investigated crashes around Christmas time where there was a fatality and the car had Christmas presents in the back seat.”

Creel said there’s a need for more officers to crack down on speeders. “It’s hard to put a person out there or two people out there working one county when it’s 40 miles across that county on the Interstate. Two people’s not enough. You need more officers out there."

But Creel did say that the current interstate speed of 70 miles per hour “is a good number and we should leave it there instead of raising it.”

Comments

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ed jenkins

Citizens have shown that they can drive safely on highways at ever increasing speeds and many drive at the higher proposed speeds anyway observing the unwritten rule agreed upon with policemen that 5-10 MPH over the speed limit is acceptable if driving under control. As a result the citizens approve of this proposal.

Hmmmm

It didn't surprise me when rear end collisions increased at intersections where red light cameras were installed. And that was supposedly done in the name of safety.

Gee Tie

Give me a break! There is not shred of real DOT collected data from the last 7+ decades showing the posting of the proper 85th percentile limit on freeways & highways designed for higher speeds poses any safety issues whatsoever!!!

And claiming the current 70 mph maximum that was first come up in the 1950s. In the 1950s for the cars we were driving in and on the roads were driving on in the 1950s ignorant and is almost laughable. It would be amusing if it wasn't costing drivers so much time & money for no real reason......

And these "SO CALLED" safety advocates know this!!! Who they really are tells why they advocate keeping limits posted well below what is the real safe maximum today. The real safe & comfortable maximum for what we are driving today on roads that have had many safety improvements since the 1950s. The real safe maximum today is the 85th percentile speed that drivers, 80-85 mph over most freeway miles coast to coast today. That is the speed that safety engineers and police know is the safe maximum.

Who they are is a lobby organized and payed for by insurance companies. The very organizations that make billions with a B from the limits being posted 10 to 20 mph below where they should be!!!! And they always leave out the fact that their own data shows under posted limits hinder safety not improve it!!!!!!

What the real collected DOT data from across the US and around the world from the last 7+ decades shows is that drivers will not drive 1 more mph than they feel safe or comfortable. And raising the limit to proper speed collected based data does not speed up traffic flow. If the limit is posted higher or lower than that speed it has no impact on travel speeds.

That's right, the real collected DOT data shows that posting a limit lower or higher than drivers feel it should be has no impact on average travel speeds

And it is the safest policy always to do speed & safety studies to determine what the true maximum is in a given stretch of freeway or highway. Then without the interference of a political maximum like 70 or 75 is use that data to post the limit slightly above 85th percentile speed.

The 85th percentile speed is always the safest and proper speed to post on a given freeway or highway. This is the speed at which drivers feel safe & comfortable so even if post a higher limit they will not drive any faster than that collected data shows.

Pass a law that allows the DOT to do safety & average speed studies to judge what the safe maximum really is. Then remove the current political maximum of 70 mph allowing the DOT to post the freeway & highway limit where the collected data shows is the safe maximum!!!!

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