It was the plea by the Florida Highway Patrol trooper during a colleague's funeral. It also could have been statistics cited by the AAA Auto Club South regarding how many traffic deaths are caused by excessive speed. And the growing opposition from county sheriffs. Regardless of the reason, Gov. Rick Scott did the right thing Tuesday by embracing public safety and pledging to veto legislation that would have allowed highway speed limits to be raised to 75 mph. The 70 mph limit is high enough, particularly considering drivers routinely drive a bit faster.
There was no pressing need for the bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. The legislation, SB 392, would have allowed the state to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,500 miles of highways. That would have included stretches of the Suncoast Parkway, Florida's Turnpike, Interstate 75 and other interstates. Supporters argued that the highways were designed to handle the higher speeds and that raising the speed limit would not increase fatal accidents.
In fact, AAA opposed the bill and cited statistics that indicate speed was a factor in one-third of the motor vehicle deaths in 2012. It said in 13 of the 16 states that have raised speed limits above 70, speed-related deaths are above the national average.
The bill passed the House by an unusually close 58-56 vote. But while Scott attended the funeral earlier this month for Master Trooper Chelsea Richard, who died with two others after they were hit by a vehicle along I-75, Trooper Tod G. Cloud asked Scott to reconsider raising the speed limit. Scott told reporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday that he found Cloud's argument convincing and that he would stand with law enforcement and veto the bill.
The governor made the correct decision. Florida should continue to focus on improving highway safety, reducing traffic deaths and encouraging fuel efficiency. Raising the speed limit would have undercut those goals and turned the state in the wrong direction.