- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa drivers will stay out of the fast lane for now, after lawmakers did not advance a bill that would have boosted the speed limit on interstate highways, bringing it in line with many nearby states.

The bill sought to raise the speed limit on interstate highways to 75 mph, up from the current limit of 70 mph. It died in the state Senate several days ago, amid questions about the safety ramifications.

That means Iowa drivers will continue at slower speeds than those behind the wheel in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, all of which have interstate speed limits of 75 mph. Bill sponsor Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said he was looking at other states as examples.

“Most of the states, definitely in the west and the northwest are, you know, higher speed limits,” Zaun said. “That was the reason that I filed the bill.”

Iowa’s interstate highway speed limit was last increased in 2005, up from 65 mph.



Supporters said the proposal would move traffic more quickly, but the main concern raised about this year’s proposal was over safety. In 2014, there were 18,764 crashes related to speeding or aggressive driving in Iowa, with 160 fatalities, according to data from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry said the agency did not take a position on the bill but was concerned about the safety impact.

“It increases the likelihood of a crash situation,” she said.

Jonathan Adkins, the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said higher speeds create greater risks. And he noted that a 75 mph limit could mean drivers actually go even faster.

“When you start getting to these speeds of 75-80 and above the laws of physics are not working in your favor,” said Adkins, whose group advocates for state highway safety. “Speeding is the forgotten highway safety issue. I’m glad to see safety was a factor in the discussion in Iowa.”

A report last year from the National Conference of State Legislatures said that 10,219 people were killed nationally in speeding related crashes in 2012, though many of those accidents were not on interstate highways. About a third of all crashes typically are related to speeding.

“We do things about drunk driving, distracted driving, at the same time, speed limits keep going up, so we negate some (of that),” said Adkins. He said the “trend is definitely moving toward increasing speed limits” and that these efforts tend to win Democratic and Republican favor.

Speed limits have been ticking up around the country Adkins said. The National Conference of State Legislatures report said that 38 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher on some roads.

Lawmakers in Maryland have shown support this year for legislation that would raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on state highways.

Zaun said he’d heard a lot of feedback on the speed proposal on both sides of the issue. He said it was unlikely he’d try to revive the bill this session, but it could come back again next year.

“I want to say yes, we’ll give it a shot next year,” he said.

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