Carroll County Times

I-97 speed limit: 75?

Several legislators have a driving ambition this session - to increase some speed limits.

Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, said he's one of four delegates working on a bill that will be introduced in the House next week to hike the speed limit on interstate highways in Maryland to 75 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 157 introduced by Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett, would allow speed limits to go up to 70 miles per hour.

But it's not just a few Republicans who are supporting legislation for increased speed limits.

A bill unanimously passed the House of Delegates last year that would have allowed a 70 mile per hour speed limit on Maryland interstates. However, the bill never got a committee vote in the Senate.

Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, said he signed on to Edwards' bill this year hoping that would change.

"Oftentimes if a bill fails in one house one year, the next time around you go to the other house to put it in. You figure you can get it out of the other house - you just got to get it out of this one," Astle said. "The truth is most people travel that (speed) anyway."

Current law in Maryland says a maximum speed limit of more than 65 miles per hour may not be established on any highway in the state.

As of today, 38 states have speed limits of 70 miles per hour on some portion of their roadway systems, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But bills introduced this year don't automatically mean the speed limit on Interstate 97 would jump to 70 or 75 miles per hour.

If a law is enacted, highway speed engineering studies would need to be conducted by the state to show a higher speed limit is preferable.

And legislative efforts to change the speed limit don't sit well with everyone.

Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said Friday his group will be against any bill to hike the speed limits in Maryland.

Jasny said when speed limits are raised, accidents can have more serious consequences.

"When they crash at greater speeds, the energy is greater," Jasny said. "What might have been a crash with minor injuries is a crash with serious injuries. A crash with serious injuries becomes a crash with fatal injuries."

Parrott, who works as a traffic engineer, disagreed. He said that when a speed limit is raised, it doesn't mean people always drive faster. Sometimes, Parrott said the current speed limit is too low and results in more impatient drivers.

He argued that the majority of people drive at a comfortable speed despite what the speed limit says.

While Parrott's bill has not been submitted yet, Edwards' bill was heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday. It's unclear when the committee will vote on that bill.