RALEIGH — After House members balked last week at approving a Senate bill to make 75 mph the states top speed limit, the bill was converted Tuesday to a plan to have the state Department of Transportation study the idea, to see whether its safe.
On a split vote with some legislators warning that a 75-mph speed limit is too dangerous even for a study the House Transportation Committee approved the amended bill and sent it to another committee.
If the full House and Senate agree, DOT will consider whether the state should launch a pilot program to pick four sections of freeways where drivers would be allowed to go 75 mph. The states top speed limit now is 70 mph.
Also part of the proposed study: improving driver safety education to move slower drivers out of the left lane.
The 75-mph speed limit proposal from Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican, cleared the Senate quickly in April with only one dissenting vote. But House members from both parties attacked the proposal during two days of floor debate last week, and during its second airing Tuesday in the House Transportation Committee.
I dont think this is good safety policy, said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican. I dont think its even worthy of a study.
Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, said her 15-year-old grandchildren were mortified by the prospect of higher speeds on state highways.
Ill support this study, but sometimes when a bad bill should be killed, it is revived by a study, Carney said to Rep. Frank Iler, an Oak Island Republican who co-chairs an oversight committee that would evaluate the proposed DOT study. I trust you to look seriously at this.
Rep. Stephen Ross said the DOT study would tackle a two-part problem if it addresses the problems caused by slow drivers who stay in the left lane.
Thats really where a lot of our traffic jams come from, said Ross, a Burlington Republican. We have so many people that go into the left lane and drive below the speed limit. It creates bottlenecks.
And theres no way youre really going to be able to go 75 or 80. You cant even go 70 on most highways because of slower traffic in the left lane, Ross said.
Hunt wanted North Carolina to join 16 states, mostly in the West, where drivers are allowed to go as fast as 75 mph on some freeways. The proposed DOT study would consider the safety of allowing higher speeds and any effect on automobile insurance rates.
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