The nation’s premiere auto club is increasing pressure on Gov. Rick Scott for a face-to-face meeting in the hopes of persuading the governor to veto a proposal that could result in higher speed limits on Florida highways.
AAA asked Scott more than a week ago for a sit-down to talk about the narrowly-approved measure that could see maximum speed limits hiked by 5 mph. Auto club officials say they have yet to hear back from Scott’s office regarding the request.
A spokesman for Scott said Friday that the governor hasn’t made a decision on the bill and that his aides would be willing to discuss the bill.
“Our office would be happy to meet with AAA to hear any concerns they have with this legislation,” said Scott spokesman John Tupps.
But Karen Morgan, AAA manager of public policy, said Friday the governor’s office had not responded to AAA Senior Vice President Kevin Bakewell’s May 1 request for a meeting.
“Increasing speed limits on Florida roadways would result in more speed-related crashes, injuries and deaths and hinder the state’s effort of moving toward zero traffic fatalities,” Bakewell wrote.
The proposal was not among the 58 bills forwarded to Scott on Thursday to be signed, vetoed or allowed to become law without gubernatorial action by May 23.
The bill (SB 392) would change state law to hike the maximum allowable speed limit on limited access highways from 70 mph to 75 mph, and on four-lane divided highways outside urban areas from 65 mph to 70 mph. The Department of Transportation would be responsible for decisions about the speed limits, and would also have the authority to set minimum speeds on certain highways.
Bakewell in his letter contends the bill is “a green light for higher speeds” that will enable motorists to travel up to 80 mph without fear of being fined, resulting in more accidents, deaths and higher costs to the state. Under current law, the penalty for driving up to six miles above the posted speed limit is a warning.
“Throughout the legislative session, no compelling argument was offered as to why the speed limits should be raised,” Bakewell wrote.
AAA points to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study showing that one-third of the nation’s motor vehicle fatalities in 2012 were speed-related. But proponents of the bill contend that many motorists are already driving at the higher speed and that the measure takes the issue out the hands of politicians, giving the transportation agency the ability to decide the safest speeds for state roads.
Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad told lawmakers during committee appearances that his agency, which didn’t request the bill, would only conduct the speed studies in select areas where conditions may warrant an increase.
Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens, one of the sponsors of the bill, argued during session that a 5 mph increase is unlikely to impact road safety.
Still, the proposal faced opposition from lawmakers at every stop in the committee process before being passed by a narrow 58-56 vote in the House and a more comfortable 27-11 Senate vote.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida