President Clinton signed a $6 billion road bill Tuesday that ends the federal 55 mph speed limit that has been in place since 1974 and gives states the power to set their own, starting in 10 days.
But Clinton made clear that he had serious misgivings about the measure, fearing that its provisions will lead to more accidents, highway deaths and injuries.
“I am deeply disturbed by the repeal of both the national maximum speed limit law and the law encouraging states to enact motorcycle helmet use laws,” Clinton said in a written statement.
He said he also was troubled that the law potentially exempts large number of small- and medium-size trucks and their drivers from safety regulations involving driver qualifications and truck maintenance.
“Without question these laws have saved lives,” the president said.
He urged the states to act responsibly and added: “My administration will redouble our efforts to protect those who travel on the nation’s highways.” He instructed the Transportation Department to develop an action plan to promote highway safety.
Overall, Clinton signed the measure because he believes it will strengthen the nation’s transportation system, providing jobs and economic opportunities, said White House spokesman Mike McCurry.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HIGHER LIMITS A look at regional states’ plans now that the federal 55 mph speed limit is ending: Idaho: No immediate change planned. Current maximum speed limit is 65 mph. Montana: Law reverts to unspecified “reasonable and prudent” standard in the day and a nighttime limit of 65 mph on interstates, 55 mph on other highways. Current maximum is 65 on the highway, 55 on noninterstate. Washington: Increase likely, although not higher than 70 mph. Current maximum limit is 65 mph.