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How fast is too fast?

PRINCETON — Motorists on certain Illinois interstates and highways could see higher speed limits in the future.

The Illinois Generally Assembly has passed Senate Bill 2356 which would increase speed limits on Illinois’ rural freeways and certain highways from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. The bill was sent on June 20 to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk for consideration.

According to the Illinois General Assembly website, the bill would provide the maximum speed limit outside an urban district for any vehicle to be 70 miles per hour on any interstate highway, as well as on all or part of other highways designated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The affected highways would need to have at least four lanes of traffic and have a separation between the roadways moving in opposite directions. The proposed law does have an opt-out ordinance option for urban counties.

On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he’s not opposed to the increased speed limit change. When he learned to drive, the speed limit on interstates was 70 miles per hour, and the speed limit on secondary roads was 65 miles per hour. Legislators are just trying to put the speed limit back to where things used to be, the sheriff said.

In his opinion, the biggest mistake made by lawmakers was allowing semi trucks to travel at the same speed as the other vehicles, Thompson said.

Whatever the speed limit, drivers need to pay close attention when driving, even more attention at any increased speed, Thompson said, adding public safety is always the main factor.

The Illinois House approved the speed limit increase bill with an 85 to 30 vote. The Senate approved the bill on a 41 to 6 vote. Voting in favor of the bill was Rep. Frank Mautino (D-76th) of Spring Valley. Voting against the bill was Rep. Don Moffitt (R-74th) of Galesburg.

On Monday, Mautino said he voted in favor of the bill because it would help bring Illinois into line with surrounding states that have 70 mph speed limits on their interstates. The increased speed limit in Illinois would help conform speed limits when crossing state lines. The change to increased speed limits would affect only the rural interstate areas and exclude the urban areas, he said.

On Monday, Moffitt said this was a difficult vote for him. He did take into consideration neighboring states with higher speed limits, and he contacted his constituents for their input, including four different trucking firms in his district.

The general consensus from the trucking firms was their trucks ran more efficiently between 62 and 65 mph, and the trucking firms would continue to run their trucks in that range, Moffitt said.

He also contacted the Midwest Truckers Association, expecting the association to be in favor of the increased speed, but the association was neutral, Moffitt said.

The association spokesperson said the dangerous situation was a few years ago when there was a split speed limit for trucks and other vehicles, with trucks having a 55 mph speed limit and cars having a 65 mph speed limit. The association’s concern was that the proposed speed limit would be uniform for cars and trucks, which it would be, Moffitt said.

No one contacted him asking him to vote in favor of the bill, Moffitt added.

For him, the overriding issue was public safety. If vehicles are going faster, it will take that much longer for them to stop. Also, since many drivers often drive over the 65 speed limit now, then how fast would the traffic being going with a 70 mph speed limit, Moffitt asked.

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