Committee approves raising speed limits to 75 mph on rural interstates

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A state Senate committee approved allowing drivers to go 75 mph on rural interstates Thursday, but the legislation faces an uncertain future.

Long stretches of rural roads across north Florida like Interstate 10, Interstate 75 and even the turnpike can expect see a 5 mph bump in the speed limit.

"I'm certainly not suggesting that the department raise speed limits inside city limits, in major urbanized areas, but in very rural areas," said Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The legislation doesn't actually raise the speed limit but allows the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct studies and then hike the limit by as much as 5 mph to match what drivers are already traveling.

"That doesn't mean that every facility speed limit would get raised to 75 mph," said FDOT secretary Ananth Prasad.

The committee approved the legislation, not uncommon when it is the chairman's bill, but it faces a tough road ahead.

Opponents also worry higher speeds would reduce fuel efficiency.

"This is not the German autobahn," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner. "We have leeway to drive 5, 6 miles over the speed limit now. Now you're going to push it up into 80 if we increase it."

Adding fuel to the debate is a new national study to be released next week that will paint Florida as having some of the weakest traffic laws in the nation.

AAA motor clubs oppose any change, saying speed kills.

"It takes longer to stop when you're going faster," said Karen MacFarland of AAA Motor Clubs. "People are following closer, people are distracted when they're driving and we are concerned about safety of motorists."

Statistics show more than 2,000 people died on Florida roadways last year.

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