You are one step closer to legally driving 70 miles an hour on Iowa’s interstates. The Iowa Senate on Wednesday afternoon approved a bill that would raise the speed limit to 70 miles an hour on rural stretches of interstate. The bill doubles speeding fines, too. The bill has already cleared the House and Governor Tom Vilsack has said he’ll consider it. Senator Gene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, is hoping Vilsack vetoes it. “To raise the speed limit — it makes absolutly no sense to me whatsoever because we’ve already got people driving fast,” Fraise says. “Give ’em another five miles, they’ll go that much faster.” But Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, favors the higher speed limit. “Most Iowans are supportive of an increased speed limit,” McCoy says. “In fact, 70 miles per hour has become the de facto speed limit on Iowa’s interstate highways.” But Fraise says that argument makes no sense. “If your thought process is going down that road, then if we have shoplifters who are breaking the law, then we ought to legalize shoplifting,” Fraise says. Others — like Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames — argued the higher limit will mean there’ll be more traffic deaths in Iowa. “If we pass this bill, there will be more blood on Iowa’s highways,” Quirmbach says. Still others — like Senator Mike Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque — argued a higher speed limit will lead to higher gas consumption. “Talk about bad timing — we’re at war right now, over oil of all things, and we’re going to be encouraging today our people instead of to conserve energy to get out there and go faster and burn more up,” Connolly says. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, says raising the speed limit to 70 miles an hour will mean more cars will be traveling at the same rate of speed, which is safer. Danielson says raising the speed limit in a “narrow fashion” and decreasing the deer population could actually decrease the number of deaths on Iowa highways. McCoy says the highways are designed for vehicles to travel at 75 miles an hour. He says it boggles his mind that other senators were trying to link speed to deaths on the highways. Again, it’s up to the governor now to decide whether 70 will be the posted limit on Iowa Intersates.
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