AP: NC House sends speed limit hike back to committee

Jun. 20, 2013 @ 02:32 PM

A bill opening the door to 75 mph speed limits on some highways in North Carolina was sent back to a House committee Thursday after lawmakers put off a vote over safety concerns.

The House debated the measure at length but decided to return it to the Transportation Committee. The Senate already passed the bill, which would allow the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit from 70 to 75 on highways and interstates if studies proved the change was safe.

An amendment bumping up the threshold for more serious speeding violations to 85 mph from 80 mph to reflect the bill's changes failed after some lawmakers argued it would allow people to drive faster without facing penalties. The amendment would've applied uniformly, not just to roads where the speed was raised.

Supporters of the bill say it improves efficiency and allows DOT to change speeds only after careful consideration. Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, said the safest speed is the one at which most drivers are already traveling.

"Our freeways are wide open. They are safe roads," he said. "I think we should let the engineers at DOT do their job, and I'd ask that you support this bill."

But most lawmakers who debated the bill questioned its usefulness and said they fear it would lead to more deaths.

"This bill came as a result of a politician who wanted to go faster on the highway," said Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell.

Other lawmakers said improved driving times aren't worth the downside. Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said raising the speed limit will make the effective rate that people drive without fear of getting a violation that much higher.