(did anyone pickup on this? Been getting a lot of coverage since yesterday).
Bill would raise N.H. speed limit to 70 mph on major highways
By Norma Love, Associated Press Writer
January 15, 2008
CONCORD, N.H. --New Hampshire's House is considering whether to raise the speed limit on major highways to 70 mph.
Witnesses told a committee Tuesday that road rage, drinking and inattention are more to blame for accidents than speed.
"I feel a greater risk to safety is people talking on cell phones than increasing the rate," said Nashua Democrat David Smith, the bill's prime sponsor.
Co-sponsor Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, said perhaps 85 percent of drivers already settle on 70-72 mph regardless of the posted speed limit. Drivers driving in and out of traffic are more likely to cause accidents than drivers going 70 mph, he said.
The bill would increase the limit on the interstate system, the central New Hampshire turnpike and the eastern New Hampshire turnpike and other divided highways of four or more lanes where the limit currently is 65 mph. The increase would not affect divided highways and other roads currently posted at 55 mph.
The bill also proposes adding a fine for driving in the left hand lane when not passing other vehicles and requiring at least three lanes before passing on the right.
Assistant Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney said the agency has no position on the speed limit -- though drivers would have less reaction time. He said the other two provisions create problems.
He said the section aimed at making slower drivers stay in the right hand lane requires police to issue warnings for a first offense and a $50 fine for subsequent offenses. Sweeney said no record is kept of warnings so no fines could ever be issued.
Under current law, police can cite drivers for driving slowly in the left hand lane so others can't pass, he said. The violation is a fine of up to $500.
Sweeney said a provision requiring at least three lanes to pass on the right would put New Hampshire out of step with national traffic laws.
Acting Transportation Commissioner Jeff Brillhart said raising the speed limit would make the highways less safe. Brillhart acknowledged under questioning that the interstate highways -- which would be most affected -- were built to handle the higher speeds.
Rebecca Ohler of the Department of Environmental Services also opposed the bill because higher speeds increase pollution.