by Jeffrey Militzer
Speed limits on Missouri interstates would be increased under a measure that received first-round approval from legislators on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, the bill sponsor, presented the bill to the House Transportation Committee. It would raise the maximum speed limit from 70 mph to 75 mph on rural freeways and interstates. Kelley says the increase in speed should not affect traffic fatalities.
“When you’re driving at 70 mph, if you hit a brick wall, it’s not going to matter whether you were driving at 70 mph, 80 mph, 100 mph. In most of those high speed collisions, we know where it’s going to end.” said Kelley.
A September 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health showed there was a 9.1 percent increase in traffic fatalities on interstate roads between 1990 and 2005. According to the study, the highest increase in fatalities due to increased speed limits occurred in states that had 55 mph limits prior to 1995, and then 65 mph limits posted after 1995.
Fourteen states, including Kansas, allow drivers to exceed 70 mph on rural interstates and freeways. Two of those states have restrictions on tractor-trailers or trucks. Missouri is among 18 states that have a speed limit of 70 mph.
“The speed is not the big factor, it’s the failure to use common sense and the failure to use protective means,” Kelley said.
If passed and put into law, the Missouri Department of Transportation would begin changing the speed limits after it assesses the safety of increasing them.
The bill was voted out of committee on Wednesday and will be sent to the House floor for debate.