Saturday, June 23, 2018
Politics

State senators want to increase Florida's speed limit to 75 mph

TALLAHASSEE — If you want to hit the gas pedal a little harder on Florida's interstate highways, some state lawmakers want to help you.

In a bipartisan move, Sens. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, say it's time to increase the maximum speed limit on rural interstates in Florida from 70 to 75 mph, as in 14 other states. Utah allows 80 mph and Texas allows 85 in some areas.

Montana, for years the only state with no speed limits, set it at 75 more than a decade ago.

The Florida change would require approval by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott in next spring's 2014 session — an election year when Tallahassee politicians are usually eager to please the voters.

"Speed limits should be set based on what most drivers are actually driving," Brandes said. "People drive at the speed they feel comfortable driving."

The nationwide standard for setting speed limits is known as the 85th percentile rule, the speed at which 85 percent of traffic moves in a given area.

Brandes, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee that is sure to give the idea a big push, said his bill (SB 392) would allow the speed limit to rise to 75 only after engineers for the state Department of Transportation concluded it was safe, based on a variety of factors.

"They're the final arbiters," he said, noting that speed limits in Florida have not been reviewed since 1995 when the nationwide 55 mph speed limit was abolished.

The speed limit is 70 mph on 1,472 miles of interstate highway in Florida. Most of those miles are in Central and North Florida on Interstate 10, I-75, Florida's Turnpike, I-95, the Suncoast Parkway and parts of I-4.

The speed limit is 65 on highways with divided medians and 60 miles per hour on other roads that Florida DOT oversees.

One opponent of the idea is AAA Auto Club South, a leading auto safety organization.

"Any discussion of increasing speed limits should consider the following factors: the design speed of the roadway, number of access and exit points, roadside environment, capacity of the roadway, school zones and presence of pedestrians, general traffic patterns, and enforcement," said AAA South spokeswoman Karen Morgan.

AAA said that in the 16 states with a speed limit of 75 mph, speed was a factor in nearly one-third of all fatal crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Brandes and Clemens cited data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that since 1996, the number of traffic deaths per 100 million miles driven has declined.

Sheriffs and other law enforcement groups have not taken a stand on the legislation. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his initial reaction was supportive.

"I don't see that much of a difference between 70 and 75," Gualtieri said.

Whether higher speed limits result in more fatal accidents has long been a subject of debate.

Brandes has a clean driving record, but Clemens knows a thing or two about speed limits.

He was ticketed for speeding twice within a week in 2011, both times for going 79 mph in a 70 zone on North Florida interstate highways.

"I don't know that I'd call that a factor" in his decision to support a higher speed limit, Clemens said. "But I certainly question the need for issuing speeding citations on long, flat, rural roads."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18