Gov. Scott, Please Veto the Speed-Limit Increase Bill
Around the State
Somehow -- doubtfully by the grace of God, but somehow -- the bill that would allow a 5 mph speed-limit increase on some Florida roads now awaits the governor's pleasure. Not imminently, but eventually.
SB 392 lurched from committee to committee with unanswered questions and bare-bones success every step of the way, then passed by a meager two votes on the House floor two days before sine die. Eight members didn't vote.
No wonder a line is forming -- led by the American Automobile Association and Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach -- to ask Gov. Rick Scott to strike down the law no agency asked for and apparently no agency wants.
AAA, FDOT, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Sheriffs Association, AARP -- none of the above are asking for this. Nor could either bill sponsor, Republican Matt Caldwell in the House or Democrat Jeff Clemens in the Senate, where it had a smoother ride, explain why the bill is needed.
In a May 1 letter requesting a meeting with the governor, AAA Senior Vice President Kevin Bakewell wrote, "Increasing speed limits on Florida roadways would result in more speed-related crashes, injuries and deaths and hinder the state's effort of moving toward zero traffic fatalities."
For Slosberg, a meeting with the governor would be more personal. His daughter Dori, at 14, was killed in a car crash, along with four other teens, while their seat belts were unbuckled and the driver -- sentenced to 15 years in prison -- was speeding. Slosberg made a passionate plea during the House debate to defeat the bill: "I don't want any other parent or family to get the call we got that night ... Please don't let this bill happen."
Even after SB 392 passed -- because of the close 58-56 vote and hoping for buyers' remorse -- Slosberg called for a reconsideration of the legislation at the end of the day's business; the attempt failed.
House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said it all. "This is one of those bills you could live to regret over and over again, with every fatality. ... I can't in good conscience do something that's going to cost somebody their life."
The bill doesn't require increasing speed limits on specific roads, but it enables the Florida Department of Transportation to do it.
The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies reported in 2006 that increasing the speed limit from 55 to 65 in 1986 increased the probability of a fatal crash by 24 percent; advancing it from 65 to 75, the study said, would increase the likelihood by 12 percent.
Think of that for a moment. Those numbers were out there as the bill moved through both chambers; maybe all lawmakers weren't listening -- but maybe Gov. Scott will.
Increase the speed limit by 5 mph and it won't be just the speed limit that goes up; so will car insurance rates. How much, we don't know. We never heard from insurers.
If the bill is signed into law, the Florida Department of Transportation will study its roadways and decide on the safe maximum and minimum speeds. Then the agency can raise the limit to 75 mph along highways that currently are posted at 70 mph. Or not.
Original discussion included long stretches of Interstates 10, 75 and 95, and parts of Florida's Turnpike.
The limit could go from 65 mph to 70 mph along other roadways outside of an urban area of 5,000 or more people -- roads with a total of at least four lanes divided by a median strip.
It somehow seemed ironic that on the day SB 392 was debated on the House floor, torrential rain storms in Northwest Florida were flooding parts of Interstate 10 and major roadways like U.S. 98 east of Gulf Breeze. Highways where cars speed along at 70 mph or faster were under water and awash with accidents over long stretches.
No warning flag there?
The governor doesn't have the bill on his desk yet. It's coming -- but there's still time for him to listen, apply his common sense and correct this purposeless mistake of a bill.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.