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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Passing-speed bill draws some opposition, but clears House committee

It cleared committee, but Rep. Lance Clow’s bill to allow passing vehicles to go 15 mph above the speed limit on two-lane Idaho highways drew some opposition in its House committee hearing today. Dave Carlson of AAA of Idaho said Idaho’s basic speed rule already takes into account that it may be appropriate to speed up while passing. He noted Idaho’s twisting, mountainous two-lane routes, like Highway 55 between Boise and McCall, which winds along the Payette River. He also said if a motorist is passing someone who’s only going, say, 40 mph in a 55 mph zone, there’s no need to speed up to 70, as the bill would permit. And he questioned how long a passing vehicle would be permitted to speed, and whether they could continue doing so while passing multiple vehicles.

“A blanket authority to speed does not appear to have a clear commercial or safety benefit that outweighs the increased risk,” he told the House Transportation Committee.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, asked how fast she could go if passing someone going 45 mph. “I can go up to 60 mph, is that right?” she asked. Clow said no, if it’s a 55 mph zone, she could go 70 mph. “Whoooooaaaa,” Wintrow responded, amid laughter. “Is there anyone in law enforcement or anything that might be concerned about that?”

Clow said he’s heard no opposition, and has discussed the idea with sheriffs and the Idaho State Police. He said he thought one neighboring state has a law allowing passing vehicles to go 15 mph above the speed limit, while Washington law actually allows passing vehicles to speed up without limit, as long as it’s safe. “Washington says get around as fast as you can, no limit,” Clow said.

If the posted speed limit on a two-lane Idaho highway is 65, Clow said his bill would allow a passing motorist to go 80 mph; it would apply on any two-lane road with a speed limit of at least 55 mph. It wouldn’t change where passing is or isn’t allowed. It would apply to any motor vehicle, including trucks, but not one that’s towing another vehicle. “If you’re in a motorhome not towing something, and you can get around that vehicle, I think you’d be allowed,” Clow said.

Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, said he thought the bill was “a reasonable and prudent effort to improve safety in the state of Idaho.” He also asked if it would allow him to pass at faster speeds if he’s towing his jetboat. Clow said no.

In the end, the bill, HB 132, cleared the committee with just one recorded “no” vote, from Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon. It now heads to the full House for debate.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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