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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Editorials

Editorial: Governor should veto bill raising speed limits

Published:

An unnecessary bill that would make our highways more dangerous has passed the Florida Senate and House and is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who can sign the bill into law or veto the measure.

We strongly urge Scott to veto the bill, which is opposed by law enforcement and safety organizations.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, would allow the state to increase the speed limits on sections of Florida’s highways by 5 mph provided traffic engineers sign off on the increase. That means the limit could be raised to 75 mph on interstates, to 70 on divided highways and to 65 on rural highways.

We can find no good reason to raise the limits. Crash studies show injuries are more severe at higher speeds, and fuel studies show more gasoline is consumed at higher speeds.

Motorists routinely ignore the current limits, putting responsible drivers at risk. Raising the limits means irresponsible drivers will go even faster.

Yet the measure passed comfortably in the Senate. It narrowly passed in the House, where some members warned of the dangers to motorists and law enforcement patrolling our highways.

The bill is “a threat to our public safety,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton who lost a teenage daughter to a crash eight years ago. He pointed out that constituents aren’t clamoring for the limits to be raised.

Rep. Ray Pilon, a Republican from Sarasota and a retired police officer, told lawmakers that he knew of nobody in law enforcement who wanted the measure to pass.

Brandes says the limits will be set by experts and engineers who will be entrusted with making sure they are safe. He says traffic fatalities in Florida have dropped since 1996, when the speed limits were last raised. But we suspect better vehicle safety features and better roads were a major contributor to the decrease.

Across the nation, injuries and deaths on interstates have increased since the repeal of the 55-mph speed limit 20 years ago, according to the American Journal of Public Health. In Iowa, deaths on rural roads increased 10 percent when the speed limit was raised from 65 mph to 70 mph.

The bill should be particularly troubling to seniors, who tend to drive within the limits to give them the needed reaction time. Drivers moving past them at faster speeds create a greater danger.

And as we all know, Florida roads also have their fair share of tourists looking for road signs and crossing lanes to avoid missing an exit.

Scott should listen to law enforcement, consider the national statistics, follow common sense and veto this dangerous bill.

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