TALLAHASSEE – Speed limits on Florida highways could be raised from 70 to 75 mph under a bill the Senate passed today despite concerns from opponents that roads would become more dangerous.
Speed limits won’t be raised automatically, but the bill (SB 392) would allow the Department of Transportation to increase them if it deems appropriate. The department could also raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 mph on other roads.
Sens. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, argued that the bill they’re co-sponsoring wouldn’t make roads more dangerous.
“Many of us are already driving at speeds that are at that level,” said Brandes.
But several senators argued against the bill, saying it’s not worth risking lives, especially in a state with a high number of retirees that drive slower.
“This is not the German Autobahn. If you want to make it the Floridabahn, you can do that, but that’s not the case,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “People retire to come here, and we don’t want to run over them or frighten them as we often do, especially on the interstate.”
She and Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, complained that people already speed up behind drivers in the left lane of highways and higher speed limits will make matters worse. Clemens responded that they should follow state law that requires slower drives to move over to the right.
“If you’re not doing that properly, it might be something where you would want to adjust how it is you are traveling down the road,” Clemens said. “For those of you have said over and over again that this is a safety issue, I would challenge you to come to me with statistics.”
An identical bill is waiting for a vote in the House.