I’ll admit my inner Dale Earnhardt Jr. rejoiced when the Florida Legislature approved a measure to increase the state’s speed limit to 75 miles per hour. Who doesn’t enjoy the freedom of zipping down an open road, assuming we can actually find some space in this state?
But then Gov. Rick Scott went against his Republican Party and vetoed the bill and, well, what can you say?
I can say this: It was the responsible thing to do.
Proving the pen is mightier than the gas pedal, his veto reminds everyone we’re not driving the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. We’re sharing congested interstates and state highways with thousands of other motorists, at least some of whom are actually paying attention with both hands on the wheel.
At least we hope so.
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This thing was controversial from the start. Even getting the bill to the governor’s desk took some doing. It passed by only two votes in the state House.
The governor had statistics on his side to show that the faster cars go, the faster people die. State troopers, AAA and many others asked for his veto.
They were correct. The recent death of Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Chelsea Richard tragically illustrated how dangerous the roadways already can be.
She and two others were killed on May 3 while standing along Interstate 75 after a traffic accident. Scott admitted a conversation with another trooper at Richard’s funeral helped him reach his decision.
“I’m going to stand with law enforcement,” he said.
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Statistics show accidents on Florida’s roadways are increasing just about everywhere. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported a nearly 19 percent increase in crashes in 2012 from the previous year.
Right here at home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in Hillsborough County, 178 people died in traffic accidents in 2012 — an increase of 27 from the year before. Speed-related deaths in Hillsborough during 2012 were at their highest level in four years.
Nationally, the same agency blamed excessive speed for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities in 2012. We could cite statistics until we ran out of space and ink, but I think most people get the point.
Mind you, I’m not a fan of the nanny state when it comes to traffic. I don’t like red-light cameras, and I hope to dear heaven that Florida never adopts the technology for cameras that can hand out speeding tickets.
To me, driving is about common sense.
Keep your hands on the wheel and off your smartphone keyboard. Keep up with traffic flow. For the love of everything pure, remember that while a trip to grandma’s is not a NASCAR race, stay out of the left-hand lane if you want to drive 48 mph.
Yeah, I’ll go there and argue that driving too slowly can be as dangerous as driving too fast.
And while we should all watch out for motorcycles, I wish those riders would do me the courtesy of not knifing in 4 inches from the front of my bumper at 98 miles an hour while crisscrossing through three lanes of traffic.
Everyone already knows that Florida’s 70 mph limit really means something close to 80 anyway, so it’s not like we need legislation that would make the de facto speed limit 85.
We all have to share the road, and there have to be rules. It’s crazy enough out there, and going faster wouldn’t have made it any saner. The governor got it right.