Indiana lawmakers consider raising speed limit to 75 mph on rural highways

Indiana drivers may soon be able to go faster on some rural highways, as a bill that proposes to increase the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph is being debated in the state legislature.

Bill aims to improve traffic flow and safety

The bill, House Bill 1308, was introduced by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), who said that the current speed limit of 70 mph is too low for the modern vehicles and roads. He argued that raising the speed limit would improve traffic flow and safety, as drivers would be less likely to speed or pass other vehicles.

“Most of the cars today are much safer, much more efficient, much more aerodynamic than they were 20 years ago when we set the speed limit at 70,” Smaltz said. “We have sensors, the steering is so much tighter, the cars are so much better, the engineering is so much better.”

The bill would apply to interstate highways and other highways in rural areas, where the traffic volume and congestion are lower. Smaltz said that the bill would not affect urban areas or school zones, where the speed limit would remain the same.

Bill faces opposition from safety advocates and transportation officials

However, not everyone is convinced that raising the speed limit is a good idea. The bill faces opposition from safety advocates and transportation officials, who cite studies and data that show that higher speed limits lead to more crashes and fatalities.

Toby Randolph, a civil engineer representing the American Council of Engineering Companies, said that increasing the speed limit should be a data-driven decision. He pointed to a study from Michigan, which raised the speed limit on some freeways to 75 mph in 2017, and found that it “generally coincided with increases in both frequency and severity of crashes.”

Lawmakers discuss bill

The Indiana Department of Transportation also testified against the bill, noting that the average speed of drivers has increased every year since 2018, and that higher speeds reduce the reaction time and braking distance of drivers, and increase the impact force of collisions.

“Speed is a factor in about a third of all fatal crashes,” said Joe McGuinness, the commissioner of INDOT. “We have a responsibility to set speed limits that are safe and reasonable for all road users.”

Bill unlikely to pass this session

The bill was heard by the House Roads and Transportation Committee on Tuesday, but no vote was taken. Smaltz said that he expects the bill to be amended or revised before it moves forward, and that he is open to feedback and suggestions from stakeholders.

He also acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to pass this session, as it needs more research and discussion. He said that he hopes to start a conversation that could last until next year, and that he wants to hear from the public and experts on the issue.

“I’m not trying to jam this down anybody’s throat,” Smaltz said. “I’m trying to have a conversation about what is the best speed limit for Indiana.”

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