North Carolina House Hits the Brakes on Speed Limit Increase

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The North Carolina House has killed a proposal to increase the speed limit on highways and interstates. The Senate had approved the measure, but in the end members of the House seemed to heed the objections of safety advocates and to err on the side of caution.

As first presented to the House, the bill would have authorized the Department of Transportation to increase the speed limit on state highways and interstates from 70 to 75 mph. Rather than just handing the DOT the keys, though, the bill stipulated that the department could only make the change if studies showed that safety would not be compromised.

During the House debate, the discussion naturally drifted from speed to speeding. At one point, members considered an amendment to the bill to increase the threshold for serious speeding violations from the current 80 mph to 85 mph, and not just on highways.

The danger with that, opponents said, was that drivers, including inexperienced drivers, tend to drive as fast as the law allows, if not just a little bit faster. By increasing the speed limit or the threshold, the state would be encouraging everyone to speed up. Higher speeds, more crashes, more fatalities, opponents argued.

The House sent the bill back to the Transportation Committee, which returned a new proposal earlier this week. This time, the bill would have required the DOT to conduct a study of the 75 mph limit and to conduct a limited pilot program, wrapping both us by January 2014. The DOT would then report the results to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee.

The substituted bill failed as well, and the General Assembly has laid the matter to rest, it seems, until the next regular session.

Sources: News & Observer, “NC House sends speed limit hike back to committee,” Chris Kardish, June 20, 2013

General Assembly of North Carolina, Session 2013, Senate Bill 709, House Committee Substitute Favorable 6/26/13, accessed online June 27, 2013