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70 mph speed limit proposal hits bump in road

Republican Rep. Paul Tittl announces his proposal to increase the speed limit in Wisconsin to 70 mph on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, in Madison, Wis. The bill has the support of Republican leadership in the Assembly, but Gov. Scott Walker has not taken a position. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

Republican Rep. Paul Tittl announces his proposal Tuesday to increase the speed limit in Wisconsin to 70 mph. The bill has the support of Republican leadership in the Assembly, but Gov. Scott Walker has not taken a position. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A proposal to increase Wisconsin’s speed limit to 70 mph may race through the state Assembly, but it appears to be headed for a speed bump or two in the Senate and with Gov. Scott Walker.

Just a day after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill raising the speed limit on rural highways in his state to 70 mph, Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, on Tuesday called for the same thing in Wisconsin.

The bill would have to pass the Senate and Assembly, and be signed by Walker, before taking effect.

Tittl’s proposal has the backing of Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has said he wants a vote on the measure in September. But the measure appears likely to run out of gas in the Senate.

“There are no plans to tackle the speed limit proposal any time soon,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in a statement.

In a further sign of trouble, Walker and his Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb took no position.

Walker will evaluate the bill should it pass the Legislature, spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said. The Department of Transportation has no position on the proposal at this time, said spokeswoman Peg Schmitt.

Despite those considerable road blocks, Tittl said he was confident the proposal would pass the Republican-controlled Legislature and be signed into law by the end of the year.

Raising the speed limit would be good for business and workers with long commutes because it will allow people to get to their destinations faster, Tittl said. And despite studies showing that raising the speed limit increases the risk of serious crashes, Tittl said he thinks it would be just as safe as the current limit, which he said no one follows anyhow.

“I don’t think it will be much of a change at all,” he said.

Tittl, who lives about 140 miles from the Capitol in Madison, said he was convinced of the need for a change during a recent commute where he drove the speed limit the whole time.

“I was absolutely slowest person on the road,” he said. “I didn’t pass anyone.”

Democratic state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, a member of the Assembly’s transportation committee from Appleton, said before the speed limit is raised, current driving safety laws like those requiring seat belts to be worn and banning texting behind the wheel should be enforced more strictly.

“Unless we can really make sure our drivers are driving safely, I think we should slow down on having a higher speed limit,” she said.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a push to raise Wisconsin’s speed limit. A proposal in 2005 to increase it to 75 mph went nowhere, stalled by opposition from Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.

Illinois was the 35th state to increase speed limits since Congress allowed it in 1995, doing away with widely ignored federal speed limits of 55 mph on most roads and 65 mph on rural roads. The trend has resulted in an increase in road deaths and injuries in those states, according to some studies, including one that found a 9 percent jump in deaths on rural interstates.

Other crash analysts say that letting speed limits creep up poses no increased risk and point out, as Tittl argued, that many drivers already are going faster anyway.

The federal speed limit law was passed to reduce fuel consumption after the 1973 oil embargo. Safety advocates lauded it for the subsequent drop in road deaths and injuries.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

5 comments

  1. And when the limit goes up to 70mph, he’ll still be passed by folks going faster. Generally, most people will be over the posted speed by 5-7mph. An old saying is “nine is fine, ten you’re mine” for cops sitting radar. When/if you get stopped for speeding and end up in court, most cases are dismissed for speeding under ten over.

  2. Raising the speed limit to 70mph is a huge mistake……I will go no faster then 70 if that, and I am constantly being passed……Now take into consideration all of the idiots that are driving, tailgating, unsafe passing, and not to mention these total idiots who will pass you and then pull immediately back in front of you, only to exit…….and now add more speed to this, you have to be crazy…..

  3. Traffic engineers and enlightened public safety officials who know the research understand the following:

    Properly set speed limits are critical to highway safety.

    People tend to drive at a speed they feel is safe and reasonable, no matter what the posted speed is. Increasing the posted limit will not compel most drivers to compensate and drive that much faster because they don’t feel safe doing so.

    Most posted speed limits have been set artificially low under the mistaken belief that slower means safer and to generate ticket revenue. This creates greater variations in vehicle travel speeds and actually raises the accident risk.

    Raising highway speeds to their safe and appropriate levels based on the speed people naturally drive (meaning the speed that 85% of drivers travel
    at, or below) decreases accident risk, increases efficiency, builds respect for
    all traffic laws, and frees the police to focus on the 15% of drivers who
    actually pose a safety risk.

    Speed limits have been increasing nationally since 1995, and yet the highway fatality rate has been declining steadily. (Source: NHTSA FARS database)

    John Bowman, Communications Director
    National Motorists Association, Waunakee, WI
    http://www.motorists.org

  4. Gary… unfortunately, there alot of drivers out there who are not reasonable or do not drive at safe speeds because they don’t always realize how fast they are going – they just have a lead foot, or they think that they can handle faster speeds with their less than impressive reaction times and skills, but they aren’t always accurate judges of their own abilities – just look at all the immature teen age drivers or some elderly who drive way too fast, as much as 20 – 25 over whatever they see as the posted limit, and cause many accidents.

    Also, statistics can lie or be manipulated. Speed limits may well be increasing nationally since 1995 with a lower fatality rate, but you have to look at all the factors that may cause the lower fatality rate. One of many possible reasons for the lower rate is better design and construction of cars with new safety features (airbags,anti-lock brakes, seat-belts, steering, tires & better performance in the rain, and less mechanical failure) – not necessarily because more people have suddenly become great drivers. You may have less fatalities, that doesn’t always mean that there are less crashes or incidents occurring – just alot of crashes that don’t end up killing people.

    And many times when people are late to work or school they ignore their better judgment to drive at a speed they feel and know is safe and instead go on emotional impulse to try to get to their destination on time or make up for lost minutes.

    Besides, the whole proposal to increase the speed limit is currently unimportant and a waste of time compared to most of the much more important issues and proposals that are currently out there – leave it where it is right now and like everybody else knows, most people will continue to drive over the current highway speed limits anyway – so its not like drivers are waiting for a bill to pass before they decide to go 70mph or more, most drivers in Waukesha and the Milwaukee area are already going around that speed or faster on most of the highways in good weather.

  5. I am not opposed to raising the speed limit but am a bit surprised that there is no discussion concerning fuel efficiency. Typically a faster moving vehicle is not getting as many miles per gallon as a car going slower. In this day and age of concern for climate change I think this needs to be considered too.

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