Pressure grows on Scott to veto speed limit bill

AAA is not a big fan of raising the speed limit on Florida highways, and is asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would do just that.

S.B. 392, which was introduced by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow Florida to join Maine as the only states east of the Mississippi River that would allow speeds above 70 mph. The bill would allow the Florida Department of Transportation to consider increasing speed limits by 5 mph on certain roads, meaning limited access highways could increase to 85 mph, highways outside urban areas 70 mph, and 65 mph on other roadways under FDOT’s jurisdiction.

But driving faster means more speed-related traffic deaths, AAA said. There are 16 states that allow speeds greater than 70 mph, and most are now well above the national average of 30 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We’re deeply concerned for the safety of Florida’s roadway users with cars traveling at increasingly higher speeds on our interstates and other highways,” said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president and chief public affairs officer for AAA, in a release. “Based upon similar action in other states, this change in state law will likely result in more crashes, injuries and deaths on our highways.”

NHTSA reported more than 10,200 deaths, or nearly a third of all motor vehicle fatalities, occurred in speed-related crashed in 2012, AAA said. The economic cost of speed-related crashes is more than $40 billion annually.

In the Florida Senate’s own analysis of the bill’s impact, a report from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program showed crash and fatality rates increased more when speed limits were increased from 55 to 65 mph, compared to a 65 to 75 mph increase. Yet, the Federal Highway Administration still points out that “there is clear and convincing evidence that crash severity increases with individual vehicle speed.”

The Senate’s analysis also pointed out that fuel efficiency drops the faster a vehicle goes, possibly more than a mile per gallon for each mile per hour a car increases speed.

The bill passed the Senate 27-11 on April 24, and the State House 58-56 on Wednesday. Locally on the Senate side, Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon, both voted for the bill, while John Legg, R-Lutz, voted against.

In the House, only Reps. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes; Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; and James Grant, R-Tampa, voted for it.


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