Before the Legislature in Bismarck for this session are two bills to increase North Dakota’s speed limits.
One is SB2057, introduced by Senator Lonnie Laffen, a Republican from Grand Forks, to raise the speed limit on the state’s interstates to 80mph.
The other is HB1184, introduced by Rep. Ben Koppelman, a Republican from West Fargo. It would raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 on paved, two-lane highways, from 70 to 75 on paved, two-lane divided highways and from 75 to 80 on the interestates.
Koppelman’s bill hasn’t been given a date yet for a committee hearing as of this morning, but Laffen’s bill got a hearing last week. And a ridiculous fiscal note (see below) from the Department of Transportation.
The NDDOT says they’ll have to spend money on changing the speed limit signs, which makes sense. They’re estimating that cost at $155,000.
Keep in mind, this is just the fiscal note for Laffen’s bill. Koppelman’s bill is, obviously, much more sweeping in its impact. I can’t even imagine what sort of a fiscal note the DOT will come up with for that one.
Anyway, the figure for Laffen’s bill was met with skepticism from lawmakers. “That seems like a huge, huge exaggerated figure,” Senator Tom Campbell, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said last week.
Indeed it does. All the more when you consider that most traffic is probably already traveling these speeds with relative impunity.
As to the concept of raising our speed limits, I’m cautiously for it. What worries me is that aforementioned impunity. Everybody knows that law enforcement gives drivers some leeway to go a little bit above the speed limit. But if we move the speed limit to 80 mph, does that mean people are going to feel they can drive up to 85 mph?
It would be good if this legislation was coupled with some other initiatives, such as a hike in the state’s fines for speeding violations, and maybe some extra money for highway safety enforcement.
A more comprehensive approach, balancing safety with increased traffic speeds, might be the right path forward here.