A bipartisan bill proposed this week would allow state traffic engineers to decide where speed limits on Florida highways can be increased and by how much. According to an article in the Sun Sentinel, if the bill is passed, the Florida Department of Transportation will study the state’s highways and determine their safe minimum and maximum speed limits. The agency will then be able to raise the maximum speed limit to 75 mph along highways that are currently at 70 mph.
A report in the Tampa Bay Times shows that the speed limit is currently 70 mph on 1,472 miles of Florida interstate highway. The bulk of these miles are located 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.
The intent of this bill is to speed up to commute for drivers who use Florida’s long rural roadways, rather than those commuting in more urban areas. In fact, according to the bill’s co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, most of South Florida would likely be excluded. This is because the region’s urban population results in usually packed highways. However, the changes proposed in the bill may apply to Alligator Alley, the part of I-75 that has many long and wide-open stretches through the Everglades.
The stretches of highway that could be impacted by the bill include long stretches of interstates 10, 75 and 95 as well as parts of Florida’s Turnpike. Clemens believes that the changes proposed in the bill would simply adjust speeds to be what motorists are driving at anyway. Additionally, sixteen other states have raised speed limits above 70 mph. Utah allows speeds of 80 mph, while Texas allows 85 in certain areas.
The change in speed limits would require approval by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott in next spring’s 2014 session.
Accidents caused on a highway due to excessive speed can be catastrophic or even fatal. Whether adding 5 mph to the speed limit in certain areas of Florida’s highways will impact the number of accidents in unclear.