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Nancy Smith

Rick Scott All That Stands Between Florida Drivers and 5 Miles an Hour More

April 29, 2014 - 6:00pm

Despite emotional arguments against a bill that would authorize the Florida Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit 5 miles per hour on some roads, the House of Representatives -- in a squeaker -- voted to send CS/SB 392 to the governor.

The final vote was 58-56, with eight members not voting.

It was close enough so at least one representative, Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach, hoping for buyers' remorse, called for a reconsideration of the legislation at the end of the day's business; the attempt failed, however. The bill had already been returned to the Senate where it originated.

CS/SB 392doesn't require increasing speed limits on specific roads, but it enables FDOT to do so.

The most passionate and personal argument came from Slosberg, who reminded the chamber that his daughter was killed in a car crash "and a speeder was involved."

"Our constituents back home didn't send us up here to raise the speed limit," Slosberg said.

Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said,"I can't in good conscience do something that's going to cost somebody their life."

Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, said the bill had a personal face in his mind, too. "I don't want to read in the paper that someone in my district was killed late at night becacuse they were driving too fast."

Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, a former lawman, begged his House colleagues to do the right thing: "Listen to the old law enforcement officer and let him tell you one more time ... vote this bill down."

But in the end, Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, sponsor of the bill in the House, won the day with a simple argument: "This law's a matter of logic and reason," he said.

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.

Increase the speed limit by 5 mph and it won't be just the speed limit that goes up, said the bill's detractors; car insurance rates will shoot up, too.

If the bill is now 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.

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.

The last 5 mph added to Florida highway speed limits came in 1996, from 65 mph to 70 mph.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the economic cost to society for speeding-related crashes is $40.4 billion a year, $76,865 per minute, or $1,281 every second.Two lawmakers alluded to those statistics Wednesday.

The bill was opposed along the way by all law enforcement agencies. I spent 30 years watching people die on the roads, and I cant support anything that would add to that sad body count, Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel, who served 30 years as a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, said when the bill first surfaced in committee. This proposal is a bad idea that would be a dangerous law.

Slosberg has indicated he will appeal to the governor for his veto.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith at or at 228-282-2423.

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