By Jamey Dunn
Despite opposition from members of his own administration, Gov. Pat Quinn approved increasing the speed limit on some state highways to 70 miles per hour.
Senate Bill 2356 will increase the speed limit on divided four-lane highways from 65 to 70 miles per hour. Local officials in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will counties can vote to opt out of the increase. The new limit will also apply to Illinois tollways. However, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority will have to power to designate other limits in some areas. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2014.
“This limited five miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Quinn said today in a prepared statement. “I encourage all motorists to continue to respect our traffic laws, avoid distractions and exercise common sense behind the wheel to protect the safety of themselves and others.”
The Illinois State Police oppose the change, and Quinn’s own transportation secretary lobbied against the legislation when it was up for consideration in the General Assembly.
“The higher the speed limit, the more likely you are to be in a crash. And if you’re in a crash, the more likely you are to be killed,” Anne Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, said when the Illinois House was still considering the bill. Despite her stance, the bill passed both legislative chambers with bipartisan support. The new law will also lower the speed at which drivers can be charged with excessive speeding from 31 miles per hour over the limit to 26 miles per hour.
While Quinn may be swimming against the opposition of some in Illinois, he is going with the national flow — something that is pointed out twice in a news release issued by his office upon his signing of the bill. “Illinois joins 36 other states with speed limits of 70 mph or higher, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.”
However, some national experts say the move toward higher speed limits does not necessarily indicate that they are safe. “The politics is that the public wants to go faster; they don't see it as a safety issue, so it's no surprise that legislatures have followed,” Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Associated Press last week. “Unlike with drunk driving and seat-belt use and even distracted driving ... the public just doesn't see speeding as a safety issue.”
On Friday, Quinn signed another bill that bans talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. The measure allows for the use of hands-free devices. That ban will also go into effect at the start of 2014.