Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Caution on Speed Limits

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Caution on Speed Limits

Article excerpt

Is Florida the place for 75 mph on highways?

How could you make Florida's holiday traffic -- roads crowded with harried drivers racing long distances, sometimes on unfamiliar routes -- more dangerous than it already is?

Maybe by raising the speed limits.

Two Florida legislators have proposed increasing the state's maximum speed limit on interstates and other roads.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, plan to offer a bill that would boost speed limits on some sections of interstate from 70 mph to 75 mph. It would also allow 5 mph increases on other roads, including highways with a divided median that now have a limit of 65 mph.

The higher limits would be permitted if state traffic engineers determine that the interstates and roads will be safe enough at higher speeds, as noted in a recent report by the Herald-Tribune's Lloyd Dunkelberger.

Given the high number of negatives surrounding this proposal -- safety concerns, Florida driver demographics and cost factors -- the Legislature should proceed with extreme caution.

West vs. East

Clemens and Brandes note that 16 other states have maximum speed limits of 75 or above. But, except for Louisiana and Maine, all of them are western plains states -- think Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana -- with wide open spaces and small or widely dispersed populations.

East of Mississippi and in California -- more populous states with more crowded roads and interstates and shorter distances between cities -- a maximum speed of 70 mph or lower is the rule. Some states, including New York and Pennsylvania, have a 65 mph maximum.

Florida -- the nation's fourth, and soon to be third, most populous state -- fits the eastern model. Most of its interstates -- including I-75, I-95 and I-4 -- are crowded much of the year. Many, if not most, drivers already exceed the 70 mph limit, some going 80 mph or more. Speeding is also common many other Florida highways. …

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