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Closely-divided House OKs 75 mph speed limit

By a 58-56 margin, the Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill that would raise the speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour on most interstate highways. A supporter called for the vote to be reconsidered, which briefly put passage in doubt. But Republicans said that maneuver occurred too late for the bill to be brought back for a second vote.

Democrats were nearly united in opposition as 39 of 45 members of the House Democratic Caucus opposed the bill, along with 17 Republicans.

Under the bill (SB 392), the state Department of Transportation would have to determine whether 75 is the "safe and advisable" minimum speed on Florida's Turnpike, I-75, I-10, I-95, I-4 and the Suncoast Parkway. Florida would be the first urban state east of the Mississippi to allow drivers to travel at 75 miles per hour (a rural section of northern Maine also has a 75 mph limit).

The bill passed the Senate on a 27-11 margin last week.

The House vote -- the closest of any issue in the 2014 session -- would send the bill to Gov. Rick Scott, who has not expressed a view on it, but a leading advocate in the Senate, Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, says he expects Scott will sign the bill if it gets there.

Of the 16 House members from the Tampa Bay region, seven voted yes, eight voted no and one did not vote. House members were sharply divided in debate, with supporters emphasizing that the bill merely gives DOT's engineers the discretion to increase the speed limit, and opponents predicting that motorists would drive faster and more recklessly, resulting in more highway fatalities.

"People are going to die if we do this," said Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth.

"Let the old retired cop talk to you one more time," said Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, a retired sheriff's deputy. "None of my people in law enforcement want this to pass."

Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, said opponents were overreacting to a bill that simply gave transportation experts more authority. "We're finding a bogeyman in the details that doesn't even exist," Patronis said.



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THE FL DEATH RATE HAS DECREASED BY ALMOST 50% SINCE the END of the 55 mph limit! http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesFatalitiesFatalityRates.aspx

2.2 vmt in 1994 to 1.25 in 2011 (and 2010). (DESPITE HIGHER SPEED LIMITS and overall more traffic)

On top of that when Utah went up to 80 mph, there was NO DOWNSIDE! http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/29/2941.asp

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) announced last week that the experimental increase in the state's maximum speed limit to 80 MPH has been a success in terms of safety. UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras testified before the state Interim Committee on Transportation that that there has been no increase in accidents as a result of the higher number printed on the speed limit signs on certain stretches of Interstate 15.

In 2008, the state legislature granted UDOT permission to test higher limits on rural sections of the road. Using crash histories, engineering studies, UDOT carefully selected the areas that it believed would best handle the increased limit. The department then conducted before and after surveys of speeds and traffic volume on the three sections where the limit was changed. Although the signs permitted another 5 MPH in speed, the results showed that drivers did not 'take advantage' of the new limit to drive significantly faster.

"Overall we saw speeds increase between two and three miles per hour," Braceras explained. "The speed differentials did increase... We saw no change in accident history, which with how careful we were in choosing this location it wasn't surprising to us, but it was very good news to see that... The number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit decreased 20 percent."

James Walker

Rep. Dave Kerner says more people will die, and that is false. 75 mph posted limits on the appropriate rural freeways will make Florida safer.

Rep. Ray Pilon says law enforcement people don't want it to become law. That is false, at least where it involves law enforcement people who work by the science of traffic engineering safety. The command officers in the Michigan State Police strongly advocate for correct 85th percentile speed limits and on rural Florida freeways that means at least 75. Some would be safer posted at 80.

AAA opposes using the safest speed limits so they can continue to surcharge the insurance premiums of their safe driving policyholders who get tickets in speed traps where the posted limit is set 10 or 15 mph below the safest points.

If you like safety and fairness and hate money grab speed traps, contact the Governor and ask him to sign this into law.

James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

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