Washington County lawmaker steps up speed limit campaign

On Thursday, Del. Neil Parrott and Del. Aruna Miller stood before TV cameras and reporters flanked by signs that said Speed Limit 70

January 31, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU |

ANNAPOLIS — Del. Neil Parrott, R Washington, is stepping up his campaign to increase the maximum speed limit in the state to 70 miles per hour.

Parrott, who is a traffic engineer, has introduced a bill in the current session to increase the speed limit on interstates and state expressways from 65 mph to 70 mph, and raise the maximum speed on the Inter-County Connector — a toll road that connects I-270 in Montgomery County to I-95 in Prince George’s County — to 70 mph from the current 55 mph.

The bill has bipartisan support, and the other primary sponsor of the bill is Del. Aruna Miller, a Democrat from Montgomery County.

On Thursday, Parrott and Miller, and other legislators who are co-sponsoring the bill, stood before TV cameras and reporters near the State House, flanked by signs resembling those on highways that said: Speed Limit 70.


“Thirty-five states in the union have a maximum speed limit on their freeways and expressways of at least 70 mph or over. Maryland is not one of these states right now,” Parrott said.

Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick/Washington, spoke in support of the bill Thursday.

Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, has filed a bill that would increase the speed limit on the Interstate 68 in Maryland to 70 mph.

Miller said that her constituents have complained about the low speed limit of 55 mph on the ICC, which is also known as the MD 200.

The delegate has called the maximum speed limit on the toll-road “unrealistic” and “counter-intuitive.”

If the bill were to become law, the speed limit on the toll-road would automatically go up to 70 mph.

But for interstates and expressways, the bill would give the State Highway Administration the flexibility to raise the maximum speed limit based on speed studies.

The federal government, in the mid-1970s, established a national speed limit of 55 mph but those restrictions were lifted in 1995.

Gregory Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said in an email that his organization was reviewing the bill and did not have a position on it.

But Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based group that describes itself as an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies, said that raising the speed limit would decrease the safety on Maryland highways.

“You can repeal a speed limit, but you cannot repeal the laws of physics,” she said.

The problem, she said, was that many drivers would drive above the 70 mph limit, contributing to accidents.

Gillan said that many safety features in cars are tested by the federal government in tests where the vehicles are traveling at 40 mph. “Some of these safety features don’t work as well when the car is traveling at 70 mph,” she said. “To crash a car at that speed is almost, always fatal.”

Quoting figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, she said that 485 people were killed in car crashes on Maryland roads in 2011.

“A third of those deaths were related to speeding,” she said.

“Maryland shouldn’t be doing it just because some other states have a higher speed limit. They should have a law that protects that other citizens.”

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