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Raising speed limit on rural interstates the right decision

Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Illinois lawmakers appear to be on board with raising the state’s rural interstate speed limit to 70 mph – a 5 mph increase over the current 65 mph limit.

The state Senate overwhelmingly supported the hike in a 41-6 vote. The legislation, Senate Bill 2536, now goes to the Illinois House for consideration.

The increase would apply to rural interstates and tollways. Urban areas, such as Cook County and the Metro East, would be able to post lower interstate speed limits if they wish. The increase would not apply to four-lane, divided state highways.

There is no good argument for keeping Illinois’ speed limit at 65 under the parameters outlined in the bill. The National Motorists Association, which supports higher speed limits, suggests speed limits should be based on “sound traffic-engineering principles that consider responsible motorists’ actual travel speeds.”

Well, on Illinois’ rural interstates, the majority of drivers actually are traveling well over 65 mph – more like 70 to 75 mph. We’ve all seen it. Drive 65 or slower on I-55 and you run the risk of being blown off the highway, honked at, or rudely gestured to.

According to the association, states across the country gradually have been raising interstate speed limits since 1995, when Congress allowed states to do so. Illinois is one of 16 states that have a rural interstate speed limit for cars that is 65 mph or lower. Thirty-four states are above 65 mph, including Missouri, Indiana and Iowa.

But the Illinois Department of Transportation and other highway safety groups are concerned that Illinois’ traffic fatalities will spike as a result of the higher interstate speed limit.

While we support raising the speed limit, we caution drivers to use common sense and good driving principles on the road. ...

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