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Our View: Put Illinois in fast lane

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A proposal to raise the speed limit by 5 mph in Illinois could put the state in the fast lane for a change.

The legislation, proposed by Sugar Grove Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis, would allow drivers on certain tollways and interstate highways to legally travel 70 mph, something they already can do in many other states.

The state Senate passed the measure last month, 41-6. Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, and Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, whose districts both include part DeKalb County, both voted in favor of the bill.

The proposal still must be approved by the Illinois House of Representatives and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn before it could go into effect.

Opponents point to safety issues and reports showing that driving at higher speeds can lead to more traffic crashes. Such concerns are legitimate. But there are reasons this legislation could work:

• Oberweis called the move good for business. If it’s helpful for businesses to have truck drivers arrive earlier to their destinations, then it’s a good thing.

• It would put Illinois more in line with other states. There are 34 states that already have speed limits of 70 mph or higher, including neighboring Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.

• Chicago-area collar counties could opt to have some of their roads excluded from the change. So if there is a concern about a specific stretch of highway, that could be addressed.

Anyone who’s taken a drive down Interstate 88 recently knows that many motorists in the state already are illegally driving 70 mph and faster when in Illinois. It’s not unreasonable to allow people on certain roads in the state to drive 5 mph faster – legally.

But upping the speed limit to 70 mph should not give people the entitlement to drive 75 mph. Enforcement, regardless of whether the speed limit changes, is key.

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