Consumer advocates urged President Clinton on Monday to veto a highway improvements bill because it would eliminate the national speed limit, an action they say would kill thousands of drivers.
“It is the only highway bill in American history that will kill more Americans than it will save,” Ralph Nader said, citing a Transportation Department estimate of 6,000 additional deaths at higher speeds.
“Please listen, members of Congress. Please listen, President Clinton,” Theresa M. Rankin said, choking back tears while describing her 18-year battle to recover from a severe head injury suffered in a California crash.
When national speed limits were imposed in 1974 as an energy-saving measure, the number of highway deaths declined by 9,000 in one year, said Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen.
Eliminating those limits - currently 55 mph on most roads, 65 mph on rural interstates - would be a “deadly surprise,” said Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Nader said he hoped the conferees would change the bill to maintain the speed limit, but that seems unlikely.
House and Senate conferees are still ironing out differences between their versions of the measure that provides some $6 billion for the nation’s roads. But the speed limit isn’t in dispute.
Both versions would free states to set their own speed limits for automobiles, although the Senate would keep limits on trucks.
The House bill passed 419-7. The Senate version was approved 65-35.