SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn isn't saying if he's going to sign off on a plan that would allow Illinoisans to cruise along rural interstate highways at 70 mph.

Despite winning overwhelming support in the House and Senate this spring, the Democrat from Chicago told reporters Friday that he continues to review the legislation.

"Anytime we deal with our roads, we want to make sure we look at everything and review it carefully," Quinn said.

Illinois is among 16 states with a maximum 65-mph limit. Thirty-four states have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph or more.

During debate in the General Assembly this spring, supporters said bringing the state in line with its neighbors would help commercial truckers deliver their goods. The measure was sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a suburban Chicago milk and ice cream magnate.

Opponents, most of them from Chicago, as well as the state police and Quinn's transportation agency, said the higher speed would kill people.

Quinn, who spoke with reporters at the opening of the Illinois State Fair, wouldn't say if the safety aspect was his prevailing concern.

"We look at everything," he said.

If Quinn vetoes the legislation, it may not stop the speed limit from rising on Jan. 1.

The measure sailed through the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities.

The legislation is Senate Bill 2356.

I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.

(8) comments

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

Transparency time: the insurance industy (surcharges due to tickets), police (job security) and the court system (job security) are the only ones who benefit from lower limits which ironically make the roads more dangerous. The two largest insurers in the nation (Allstate and State Farm) control 30% of the market and make something like $50 billion per year in premiums. Could it be that we are all suffering low speed limits because of money?

I am a father of two teenage kids who drive. Its tragic that I have to tell them to ignore the silly 55 mph speed limit in order to reduce their risk on the road. We teach kids that this one law is a joke (because it is a joke and a dangerous one) and soon we have to have red light cameras because they think red lights are a joke too.

Nothing in the history of America has done more to undermine respect for the law than the 55 mph speed limt which was put in 40 years ago and still lingers today in some areas.

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

The widely cited Journal of Public Health study was flawed because it looked at changes in raw numbers, not actual fatality rates, which factor in the number of miles traveled:

http://alerts.motorists.org/nma-email-newsletter-issue-28/

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

From a recent Detroit News Article…
“Michigan State Police First Lt. Thad Peterson said major contributors to aggressive driving include: speed limits that are too low for the road; traffic congestion; and poorly timed traffic lights. These act as instigators to drivers speeding, changing lanes and tailgating, all characteristics of “aggressive” driving.
Changes made to roadways where aggressive driving occurs have reduced reported incidents or road rage, he said.
As an example, Peterson pointed to changes made along a section of Interstate 496 outside of Lansing, which accounted for 40 percent of reported incidents of aggressive driving in that area. When the speed limit was raised from 55 mph to 70 mph, incidents of aggressive driving dropped to zero.
“The low speed limit frustrated many drivers, so they drove over the speed limit. This caused problems for other drivers who were driving at the limit. The speed differential caused the tailgating, passing, and speeding that were reported as ‘aggressive’ driving,” Peterson said.
His data also showed accident rates in that area also fell when the speed limit was raised.
Surprisingly, the higher speed limit also improved traffic flow, nearly eliminating all symptoms of rush hour congestion along that stretch.”

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

Here are a few links which overwhelmingly support higher limits:

http://blog.motorists.org/reduce-road-rage-realistic-speed-limits/
http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/speed-doesnt-kill-repeal-55mph-speed-limit
http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/guest-commentary/2013-05-26/increased-speed-limit-not-threat-public-safety.html
http://www.motorists.org/speed-limits/
http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1593_30536_25802-87384--,00.html
http://www.lsp.org/pdf/troopc85thSpeed.pdf
http://napervillesun.suntimes.com/people/voices/letters-NAP-07122013:article
http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130710/discuss/707109950
http://www.sj-r.com/opinions/x1806121194/Letter-Too-low-speed-limits-are-dangerous
http://i1254.photobucket.com/albums/hh605/DonerDesigns/SpdVar_zps908853c2.jpg
http://i1254.photobucket.com/albums/hh605/DonerDesigns/FtltyTrnd_zps382f03a8.jpg
http://i1254.photobucket.com/albums/hh605/DonerDesigns/german_zpsa5570dc0.png

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

Excellent comments here from a real safety expert. Higher limits if anything will reduce deaths...

Increased speed limit not a threat to public safety
Sun, 05/26/2013 - 11:00am
By Dan Metz

A higher speed limit on interstate highways is a threat to public safety, says Kevin J. Martin, speaking for the Illinois Insurance Association. Speaking as an accident reconstructionist with 43 years of experience, more than 80 published scientific papers, and having investigated more than 1,200 road accidents and 150 racing accidents, that statement is pure nonsense.

Fact: There are literally hundreds of scientific research papers that show that, absent massive police visibility and presence, drivers will travel at whatever speed they feel is comfortable for conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit. For rural interstate highways in Illinois, that speed is currently about 77 mph — coincidentally, the exact same average speed as on the unlimited-speed sections of the German autobahnen.

Fact: The average death rate from automobile accidents on rural U.S. interstate highway systems is about 0.82 deaths per 100,000,000 miles traveled — coincidentally, the exact same death rate as on the unlimited-speed sections of the German autobahnen.
Fact: Attributing a traffic fatality to "speeding" relies mainly on the judgment of the police officers who investigated the accidents, essentially none of whom has any training or education in scientific accident reconstruction, and therefore no factual basis for attributing a fatality to "speeding."

Fact: At one time, speed limits were set according to the 85th percentile rule: the limit was determined by the speed of the fastest 15 percent of traffic. Now, limits are set in a completely arbitrary fashion on interstate highways. Except for school zones and certain other special circumstances, the 85th percentile rule is a much more rational way to determine appropriate speed limits.

Fact: The hated 55 mph interstate speed limit, now thankfully discarded, probably generated more disrespect for the rule of law than prohibition, drugs usage and nearly every other factor combined. It was uniformly ignored and even laughed at by police officers, who had monthly ticket quotas to fulfill, and thus a vested interest in issuing citations.

Fact: Careful scientific studies indicate than 50-60 percent of all radar-based speeding tickets are erroneously issued, and could not withstand even a cursory legal defense if put forth by an expert scientifically trained in the use of radar for speed measurement. Radar is the predominant method of determining vehicle speed for purposes of ticket issuance.

Fact: Many municipalities and other governmental bodies rely heavily on fines issued for speeding for a significant portion of their yearly budget. How else to explain the comical "driving school," in which a person who supposedly broke the law is permitted to pay a higher fine in return for a blanket reduction of driver license points?

Fact: The average speeding ticket costs a driver more than $3,000 in increased insurance premiums over a multi-year period. Insurance premiums have universally been based on the number of citations issued to an individual, but there is only very loose correlation between speeding citations issued and individual accident history.
The insurance industry nationwide has made multibillion-dollar profits by selling the idea that "speed kills" to citizens, police officers and legislatures. Speed inappropriate for conditions is certainly a danger; 70 mph on a rural interstate highway is, if anything, actually far too low for a reasonable speed limit. The Eisenhower interstate highway system was designed for 85 mph travel in 1950s-era cars. For a modern car, 70 mph is not only safe, but really just loping along.

Everyone involved in accident reconstruction already knows how to reduce the death toll on the highways of the U.S.: rigorous enforcement and prosecution of driving-while-impaired laws. DUI is routinely plea-bargained away and often even ignored. Drivers receive multiple DUI tickets and continue to drive anyway. Drivers even drive without valid licenses and instead of incarceration are given only a slap on the wrist and some "community service." In many other countries, DWI laws are far more rigorously enforced, with predictable results: reduction in accidents and deaths.

Graduated driver's licenses, a BAC limit of 0.05 and rigorous prosecution of DWI would save more lives in one week than keeping the Illinois interstate speed limit at 65 mph will save in a year. The howls from the insurance industry reflect not scientific fact but a potential loss of massive profits.

Dan Metz is a retired UI professor. He has reconstructed over 1,200 road accidents and 150 race accidents in a 43-year consulting career.

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

To the Editor:

With several states increasing speed limits recently, there has predictably been a fair amount of discussion and debate on the topic, much of it laced with uninformed claims and silly clichés like “speed kills”. Like the lies of a politician, most of these claims contain just enough truth, logic or emotional appeal to fool many people into listening.

There are bigger issues to tackle in this world, but this is one of the few laws that touch the life of nearly every citizen every day. Most of us will never be charged with breaking a law, except on the road. We complain about various forms of government ineptitude, but we actually feel it on a daily basis when we get in our cars and drive on roads with under-posted speed limits. What a shame and what a great opportunity for politicians to get some easy points with citizens by simply requiring that speed limits be based on sound traffic engineering principles as they once were before the much-hated 55 limit came along forty or so years ago.

Studies have long shown that speed limits have little effect on how fast people actually drive on open roads and any traffic engineer, and many state police departments, will explain that 85th percentile speeds are the proper way to set limits. This is the maximum speed at which 85% of traffic actually flows when unencumbered. A quick internet search will show that this is widely accepted as the best way to set speed limits.

So if people drive fast anyway, why waste money changing the signs? Good question, but there are some important reasons. Artificially low limits do not slow down the faster traffic but do cause several types of dysfunction which make the roads more dangerous, for example:

• Speed Variance: slower traffic will tend to flow at or near the posted limit. When limits are too low, the speed differential between the fastest and slowest traffic increases. This is a leading cause of road rage, particularly when slower traffic does not keep right and yield to faster traffic. In addition, as illustrated in Chart 1, drivers obeying a limit which is below the average speed are at the highest risk of being in an accident.
• Distracted Drivers: people multi-task when driving does not demand their full attention. Dumbed down limits tend to increase distracting activities further contributing to impaired drivers and road rage as slower traffic lumbers along in the passing lane chit-chatting on the phone, too busy to notice someone wants to pass.
• Increased Use of Less-Safe Roads: when a shorter or cheaper two-lane route carries the same speed limit as an interstate highway fatalities can go up simply because people are not motivate to use the safer roads which sometimes carry tolls and are often less direct (but faster if speed limits allow it).
• Punitive Speeding Penalties: some states, like Georgia and Illinois, have instituted so-called "super-speeder” laws. For going 30 over the limit a person can go to prison in Illinois. Most of metro Chicago is still posted at 55, so 30 over the limit is not unusual when the roads are clear. Most reasonable people would agree that 85 is not such an unreasonable speed, in modern cars in clear daytime weather, that offenders should go to jail. These same roads were posted at 65 or 70 forty years ago when cars were junk wagons compared to modern vehicles with anti-lock brakes, stability control, etc. Before 55, Nevada and Montana had no daytime speed limit at all.
• Loss of Respect for All Traffic Laws: when limits are set at 55/65 on interstates, the government inadvertently teaches its citizenry that it is clueless about establishing proper traffic laws. This then leads drivers to disregard limits on roadways where 55/65 may be an appropriate speed…including construction zones, etc.

So why do we still have crazy-low speed limits on our interstates nearly 20 years after the national speed limit was finally lifted? Two big reasons:

• Insurers: insurance companies like low speed limits which trigger more violations. The insurance surcharges (for points on license) are the primary reason that P&C insurance companies push to keep limits low – it enables them to charge higher rates without higher risk – it’s all profit. This is true of AAA as well. AAA is an insurance company pretending to be a motor club and is perhaps the motoring public’s most formidable foe.
• Bureaucracy: during the 55 years states lost federal highway funds if they did not enforce the law that even police hated and laughed at. As a result, more troopers were hired and infrastructure was added to process all the tickets. Now, we have a bloated bureaucracy trying to preserve itself and which gladly teams up with the insurance lobby to harass and oppress motorists.

Some have cited the fact that fatalities dropped when limits were reduced from 75 to 55 forty or so years ago. While true, they never seem to mention the fact that fatalities continued to steadily drop when limits started going back up (see Chart 2). States which have increased limits, by and large, have experienced declines in fatality rates because of reduced speed variance and road rage as well as diversion of traffic onto safer (and faster) roads. The fatality rate even decreased in Montana which for some years had no daytime limit following the end of the 55mph national speed limit in 1995; and, immediately after Montana put a limit the fatality rate started going up. Similarly on the German autobahns, speed and fatality rates have moved in opposite directions (see Chart 3) – higher speeds, fewer deaths.


Regarding fatality rates, figures can lie. Be sure to look at fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven. One recent study, which is widely cited by those with a hidden agenda, looks at the absolute number of deaths without regard to miles driven. Of course fatalities go up when miles driven go up. Similarly, if there was no driving there would be no fatalities. The actual rates have fallen almost continuously since they started keeping records regardless of what was done with speed limits (see Chart 2).

One last point should not be overlooked - traffic congestion increases when speeds are lower. Heavy traffic can only move as fast as the slowest car and the slowest car will be going the speed limit. Like water through a hose, you can increase the flow rate by using a bigger hose or by increasing the flow rate. Slow down the flow of the main line and all the feeders back up. Lower limits mean more gridlock. Higher limits allow us to get more efficiency out of our existing infrastructure reducing the need to widen roads.

Artificially low limits have nothing to do with safety and in fact make the roads less safe. All of us are faced with a choice between driving safely and driving legally. This is a choice that we and especially our teenage children should not have to make.

Tell your representatives you want limits to be set based on the 85th percentile speed (measured properly with traffic related slowdowns factored out), especially on interstate highways.

Steve Doner
Former Illinois State Chapter Coordinator
National Motorists Association

Steve Doner
Steve Doner

Regarding the opposition, "most of them from Chicago, as well as the state police and Quinn's transportation agency, said the higher speed would kill people." their assertion is preposterous and has no grounding in facts or reality.

Orpheus

Hopefully this passes so people are allowed to get out of this God-forsaken state at a faster pace!

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