June 23, 1995 in City

Giving States Control Only Logical Solution

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A national speed limit may fit the mother-may-I lives of teeming Eastern masses and hand-wringing social engineers, but it makes little sense here in the vast West.

Anyone who has ever driven through Montana’s Big Sky country, rural Idaho or the endless Nevada desert knows that. As do motorists ticketed for exceeding the absurd 55 mph limit along U.S. Highway 395, north of Washington’s Tri-Cities.

The national speed limit, originally imposed in 1974 by Big Brother to conserve fuel during the Arab oil crisis, is anachronistic in this day of fuel-efficient engines. And it’s an affront to every state. Legislatures, working with state highway experts, are in a far better position than bureaucrats in faraway Washington, D.C., to tailor highway speeds.

Yet, status-quo proponents shrilly fan fears that every state irresponsibly will eschew daytime speed limits as Montana did prior to the oil embargo. They view the U.S. Senate’s vote to give states back their legitimate right to set limits as a starter’s flag to a national highway bloodbath.

Actually, the Senate finally is accepting reality.

The national speed limit has turned more Americans into criminals than any federal law since prohibition. Motorists routinely speed on interstates and secondary highways, watching the rearview mirror and road shoulders nervously for state patrol officers.

Indeed, speed kills. More people will die when limits are raised to 70 mph than at 65 mph. More will die at 65 than 55. At 55 than 45 - and so on. In fact, more will die at 25 mph than if we all rode bicycles. But we’re a mobile society that has been in love with the automobile since it began rolling off Henry Ford’s assembly lines. Many are willing to trade the small added risk of higher limits for faster commutes and fewer tickets.

The federal government has blackmailed states for the past two decades by tying highway appropriations to the national speed limit. Even the untamed state of Montana finally was forced by the heavyhanded Congress to adopt limits. But Montana became a symbol of the western spirit by setting the fine for exceeding daytime limits at only $5.

Now, it’s time to end the blackmail altogether.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view see, headline; Vote reveals Senate asleep at the wheel

Anti-limits Bureaucrats know little about highways.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From Both Sides

For opposing view see, headline; Vote reveals Senate asleep at the wheel

Anti-limits Bureaucrats know little about highways.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From Both Sides


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