Iowa lawmakers mull potential rural speed limit increase

Two bills are in the House to raise it to either 60 or 65 mph

By Jacob Peklo | jpeklo@weareiowa.com

Published 02/10 2016 10:33PM

Updated 02/10 2016 10:42PM

DES MOINES - Lawmakers want to increase the speed limit on rural highways, but Iowa State Patrol says it could be dangerous.

The average speed on a rural two-lane highway is 62 miles per hour, according to a study done by the Iowa Department of Transportation. So now the question is, would raising the speed limits lead to an increase in speeds, or would they stay the same?               

Tim Hughes has lived in rural Elkhart for about a year and a half now.

“Pulling out on the highway, and straight from our driveway and people come by a little too fast, “ he explained, “and we have a little sight problems where we can't see over the hills."

Around his neighborhood, the speed limit is 55. But a bill that's now in the Iowa House could change that.

"We live in a residential area, where you hit a group of homes here and I think keeping the 55 is plenty fast enough,” said Hughes.

Representative Rob Bacon introduced his proposal after an Iowa Department of Transportation study found the average driver went 62 down rural highways,

"Actually, I feel comfortable at 60 and most people I've talked to say let's just boost it up to 60 miles an hour and they feel very comfortable with that,” said Bacon.

Other lawmakers agreed, quickly pushing the bill through subcommittee.  

"55 mile per hour speed limit does seem fairly slow on the rural two lane highway, maybe going to 65 limits might be too fast,” said Adrienne St. Clair, a Grimes resident.

State patrollers have argued in the past, that greater speeds could mean more deadly crashes, especially in the country, but still, some feel a slight bump to 60 could work.

"If it's proved to be a safe speed limit to move it up to and they think there's not going to be an increase in accidents or violations, I think it's perfectly fine,” said Nick Nesbit of Grimes.

Bacon says driving technology has greatly improved since the current limits were set.

"Remember, though too, cars are a lot safer than they were when they were set at 55, the roads are wider, they're up to two feet wider per lane,” said Bacon.

And he says if drivers ramped up their speeds, law enforcement could choose how to enforce it.  As for Hughes, he says the law could work on some levels.

"I don't think raising the speed limits would work in every area, but if you can pick and choose for which areas it would work, I think that raising it would be okay,” said Hughes.

Bacon says a 5 mph increase would last for a while. He says there’s no reason the state would have to revisit the law again five or 10 years. 

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