THE PILOT EDITORIAL - On speed issue, proceed with caution

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Iowa's discussion about speed limits isn't wrong; it's the reason for the discussion which has become fatally flawed.

When Christopher Rants, the Iowa House Majority Leader, calls on the legislature to renew efforts to raise the speed limits, the media coverage doesn't cite a need for a change to more efficiently move people and commerce.

We are told that we need higher speed limits because people won't obey the ones they have.

And so they don't. Even on the expressways where limits were raised to 65 m.p.h., a DOT study shows 87 percent of the drivers breaking that law, and nearly one in five driving over 75.

Are we then to set the limits at whatever people are driving? And to assume that if we set them up to 75 mph, nobody would push it still faster.

"Let's experiment," Rants is quoted as saying, calling for a couple years of higher limits on certain interstate trade routes, perhaps leading to other increases.

He doesn't indicate how many dead bodies would constitute a failed "experiment."

Speed limits are in place to keep people safe. They reflect the generally mediocre condition of Iowa highways, high concentrations of elderly drivers, farm equipment on the roads. It's reality.

If legislators aren't willing to provide funding to enforce the laws of the road, then raising limits up above the speed of those who ignore them now is one big cop-out in reasoning.