Raising speed limits on some roadways makes sense

As long as the scientific study supports it, a package of bills being sent to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk that would, among other things, increase speed limits on more than 1,000 miles of roadway across the Great Lakes state makes sense to us.

The Michigan Legislature on Tuesday approved increasing the limits from 70 mph to 75 mph and from 55 mph to 65 mph on about 600 miles of freeway and 900 miles of other roads with I-, U.S.- and M-numbered designations.

Those new limits could be set within a year if a safety study shows that it is appropriate, and if 85 percent of motorists are already traveling at those speeds on the affected roadways.

It was 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act that capped the national maximum speed limit at 55 mph. At that time, 55 mph was determined to be the most fuel-efficient speed at which vehicles should be driven, and the country was facing shortages and higher prices of foreign oil.

Times have changed and states have since been given the authorization to reset the speed limits within their own borders, and we think it’s wise for Michigan to re-evaluate its regulations.

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly which roadways will be studied, but there are at least a few in the Upper Peninsula that are deserving of it.

If you’ve driven on the roughly 26 miles of M-28 between Shingleton and Seney lately, you may have taken note of the speed at which vehicles are driven there.

That little piece of road spanning parts of Alger and Schoolcraft counties in the central U.P. is known to many of us as the Seney Stretch. The speed limit is 55 mph, but increasing that likely wouldn’t pose too great a risk for drivers on the nearly 30 miles of straight, turn-free east-west thoroughfare.

A separate bill included in the package awaiting Snyder’s signature was introduced by Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette.

“My legislation creates a new lower penalty of one point for drivers ticketed for going one to five miles per hour over the posted speed, which under current state law is a two point offense,” Kivela said in a press release.

Under Michigan’s point system, speeding infractions can add points to your license, which can ultimately result in higher automobile insurance expenses.

Kivela’s proposal may help keep such expenses down for these minor infractions.

“Along with the other bills in this package, we’ve made some common sense changes to some of our speed limits on certain roads while still protecting drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” Kivela said.

The bills would retain speed limits currently set in work zones, and wouldn’t reduce the points given to a driver for speeding violations in such zones, which we fully support.

In areas of construction, where workers, machinery, congested traffic and other distractions are oftentimes present, drivers must travel along those routes cautiously, and driving at a reasonable speed in these areas may help avoid accidents and save lives.

Though it may lend credibility to the subjective observations many of us have made in the past, the traffic study will undoubtedly provide our state officials with the data and figures they need to make good, solid decisions that are based on fact.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette