Illinois to Increase Speed Limit on Highways

CC image Wikipedia.orgDrivers who live in the fast lane may soon be able to go a little faster on the highway after Gov. Pat Quinn approved a bill to up the speed limit to 70 mph on rural interstates.

Quinn passed the measure despite opposition from the Illinois Department of Transportation, state police departments, and leading traffic safety organizations. Many of the organizations believe the increased speeds will lead to more accidents on the roadways.

“Raising speed limits is politically popular, and higher speed limits get people to their destinations faster,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “But we have to recognize there’s always a safety trade-off. There’s no free lunch. And more people will die on the roads as a result.”

Illinois will become the 37th state to report a legal limit of 70 miles per hour or greater. Quinn said he undertook the measure because it was important for Illinois to remain consistent with other Midwest states.

“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors’ and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Quinn said.

Mark Bohlin, a resident of Tinley Park, said he was glad Illinois finally decided to up the speed limit to 70 mph.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Bohlin. “Increase the speed limit. Everyone already drives about 80 miles per hour on the highway. A lot of other states already have higher speed limits and it seems to work for them.”

It’s not exactly clear which roads will be bumped up to the 70 mph limit, as some counties will have the final say in the matter. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2014.

New Penalties

Despite outside criticism, Quinn decided to pass the measure because he believed the legislation was written in such a way to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. Under the bill, heavily populated counties can choose to opt out of the increased speed limit, and the threshold for charging a driver with “excessive speeding” was reduced from driving at least 31 mph over the speed limit to driving at least 26 mph over the limit.

In other words, 96 miles per hour is still the threshold for an excessive speeding ticket on rural interstates, even though the legal limit has increased.

Attorney Miriam Szatrowski comments

Although this is a welcome change for many people in Illinois, it should not be interpreted as a signal that Illinois is easing up on speeding in general. In fact, Illinois has been cracking down on speeding with several new laws over the past three years, though many people don’t know the details of these new laws.

In addition to the regular speeding laws, which allow police to ticket drivers for going above the speed limit, Illinois has laws making speeding a misdemeanor when the driver is going too much over the speed limit. Driving 31-39 miles per hour over the limit is a Class B misdemeanor, which means the maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Driving 40 or more miles per hour over the limit is a Class A misdemeanor, which means the maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Although drivers rarely have to spend time in jail for these offenses, particularly if it is the first time, they are not eligible for supervision. This means that driving 30 miles per hour or more above the speed limit is likely to result in a misdemeanor conviction.

Currently, driving 25-29 miles per hour over the speed limit is a petty offense, meaning drivers who are found guilty cannot be sentenced to jail time, but they are also not eligible for supervision. However, the new law will change this, making it a non-supervisionable Class B misdemeanor to drive 25-29 miles per hour over the limit.

So, even if you are looking forward to the new speed limit, remember that Illinois does not go easy on speeders, and slow down so you don’t risk getting a criminal record!

Related source: Chicago Tribune