The state Assembly is set to consider legislation today that would clear the way for higher speed limits on Wisconsin highways.
The bill would allow the state Department of Transportation to set a maximum speed limit of 70 miles an hour on state highways. Proponents of the measure argue the change is needed to bring Wisconsin in line with neighboring states, which have already adopted the higher limits.
The measure has attracted some opposition though from car safety advocates, largely because the higher speed limit would apply to all vehicles traveling on the roads. Nick Jarmusz with AAA-Wisconsin says that concerns the auto club because allowing semi-trucks to up their speed can significantly reduce the time and distance it take for them to come to a stop in an emergency. He says “any time you have vehicles traveling faster, that’s going to increase the amount of stopping distance that they need…make it difficult for them to slow down.”
Jarmusz says those longer stop times put other motorists at risk. He points to crash statistics in other states that saw an increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks after their speed limits were increased. “In Minnesota and Iowa, the rate is at 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Wisconsin is at seven percent,” which he worries could go up if semis are allowed to travel at faster speeds.
Michigan, which also increased its speed limit to 70, does actually have a lower rate of fatal crashes involving semis than Wisconsin. Jarmusz notes the Michigan law has a differential speed limit, which requires semis to travel at 60 mph in areas where cars can go faster.
The bill is expected to pass the Assembly later today with bipartisan support, just as it did last session. Jarmusz says they are focusing on trying to convince the state Senate to put he brakes on the proposal, before it can clear the Legislature.