A pair of state lawmakers is pushing legislation to increase Florida’s speed limit to 75 mph in some places — up from the 70 mph standard set in 1996.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Tuesday that their proposal also could boost limits by 5 mph on divided highways to 65 mph and add 5 mph to the 60 mph limit on other state roads.
The sections of highway getting fast-laned would be set by the state’s Department of Transportation, based on a future study of what roads could handle it, under the legislation (SB 396).
Clemens emphasized the effort is aimed at rural and more isolated stretches of roads. “Not I-95 in South Florida,” he said.
Brandes also said lawmakers would want to defer to DOT.
“I’m not big on having lawmakers set speed limits,” he said. “Let the experts do it. We just want to give them the authority to increase.”
The federal government abandoned two decades of strict regulation of state speed limits in 1995 — clearing the way for many states to adopt new standards.
Brandes said 17 other states that have increased speed limits beyond 70 mph show it’s not a problem when applied correctly.
Higher limits usually are seen as contributing to more severe accidents and a stepped-up rate of highway fatalities. Faster driving also uses more fuel.
But since 1996, when Florida jumped to its current standard from 65 mph, the fatalities rate per 100 million vehicle miles has steadily declined, the lawmakers said.
AAA Auto Club South, however, urged caution. Since 2011, one-third of all vehicle fatalities occur in speed-related crashes, and speeding is involved in 20 percent of crashes with injury or death, the organization said.
Clemens, who records show has had a number of traffic violations, including speeding, in the past three years, said he has not had any accidents.
“Being a fast driver doesn’t always mean you’re a bad driver,” he said.
The highest speed limit in the nation is currently in Texas, which allows motorists to clock 85 mph on some roads. Utah allows 80 mph limits on some highways.
“Allowing professionals to determine safe speeds based on the engineering standards of individual highways is simply common sense,” Clemens said. “A 5-mile-per-hour increase is unlikely to have an impact on road safety, but we’ll let the experts do their job.”