Speed limits up to 80 mph in Idaho? The House was decidedly less enthusiastic about the idea today than the Senate was earlier, but SB 1284a narrowly passed, 34-31, and now goes to Gov. Butch Otter; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The bill earlier passed the Senate on a 30-4 vote. It wouldn’t raise the limits everywhere – it would just empower the Idaho Transportation Department to decide, based on engineering and traffic studies, to make the change on stretches of road where it decides the change would be in the public interest. Stretches of interstate could go up to 80 mph; two-lane roads now at 65 mph could go up to 70 mph, based on the same standards.
Opponents focused mostly on safety questions. “I worry about the kids that are just learning how to drive,” said Rep. Kelly Packer, R-McCammon. “Kids are our most vulnerable drivers on the road today. They do not have the experience, they do not have the reaction times. They do not have the ability to drive safely at even more increased speeds.”
Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, the bill’s House sponsor, said, “There’s all sorts of reasons to argue on both sides of the issue. I think it can safely be done in Idaho.” The bill follows Utah’s move to raise speeds to 80 mph on I-84 just across the state line from Idaho; that state did a three-year experiment and found that accident rates didn’t rise with the higher limit, in part because drivers mostly went no faster than they had before.