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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho Senate backs higher passing speeds on two-lane highways

Idaho state Capitol in Boise (Betsy Z. Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

BOISE – If Gov. Butch Otter signs on, Idahoans could go up to 15 mph over the speed limit while passing on a two-lane highway without risking a speeding ticket.

The change won support from the Idaho Senate on Monday on a 24-10 vote, sending HB 132 to the governor’s desk – despite a warning from Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, that “this is going to kill people.”

“We have pushed speed limits in this state beyond what is reasonable,” Burgoyne told the Senate. Idaho’s top freeway speed limit is 80 mph; the passing-speed bill would apply only on two-lane highways, not freeways, where the speed limit is 55 mph or more.

“I think that this is going to lead to property damage, injury, death,” Burgoyne declared, “because we all treat speed limits as a little bit advisory to begin with.”

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, a retired police officer, agreed.

“Part of me would love to vote for this, because I understand the common sense behind it,” he said.

But, Foreman said, “We’re all in too big a hurry out on the highway.” He said most people drive 10 to 12 mph above the legal limit. “They will add another 10 to this 15,” he said. “If we pass this bill, people will die because of it. I know that’s not our intent, but we need to stop this bill before it stops us.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, countered that he drives with caution when passing, “And so does every other responsible driver in the state. Because if you hang out in the opposite lane trying to pass a 5-mile-under vehicle, that is more dangerous than accelerating and getting around, and that would kill more people than accelerating and getting around and getting back in your lane.”

“The fact that our statute at this point doesn’t recognize that common-sense reality is an oversight, which is most likely, or it’s just silly,” Rice said, “and it’s about dang time we just fix it.”

Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, said, “I think it’s just making legal what we’re currently doing, and I don’t think it’s unsafe.”

Washington already allows passing motorists to exceed the speed limit while passing on a two-lane highway, if other safety guidelines are observed.

Wyoming allows motorists to go 10 mph above the speed limit while passing.

If Otter signs the bill into law, it would take effect July 1.