The posted speed limit on many rural stretches of interstate in Iowa will go up to 70 miles an hour on July 1st. Governor Tom Vilsack announced this (Tuesday) morning that he’ll sign the bill that raises the interstate speed limit and doubles speeding fines. But there are some conditions. First, Vilsack is telling D-O-T and public safety officials to review traffic trends and identify stretches where they believe the speed should not rise to 70. And once Vilsack gets the official piece of paper, he’ll use his item veto authority on the bill to ensure that a portion of the higher speeding fines don’t automatically go to buy new cars for state troopers. Vilsack calls it “bad policy” to have a “direct link” between speeding fines and new patrol cars. Early Monday afternoon Vilsack said he hadn’t even thought about the bill, but he decided later Monday that he needed to act fast because the bill — with its higher speeding fines — had seven million dollars worth of budget implications. “I spent a good part of last night and into the early morning thinking about this,” Vilsack says. The governor is telling state troopers to start strictly enforcing the speed limit now — and when it goes up to 70. “We want to make sure we create an atmosphere in which respect for the law is encouraged,” Vilsack says. In the past, Governor Vilsack opposed raising the speed limit, saying higher speeds on the interstates would lead to more traffic accidents and deaths on the roadways. “The speed on highways in Iowa ought not to increase,” Vilsack says. “If people are currently going 70, that’s what they should continue to go if that’s the posted speed limit…and law enforcement should make sure that people understand that’s what the law is and it’s going to be enforced.” Vilsack says it means an end to the “wink and a nod” from state troopers that has given some drivers a license to speed. “Right now, I think there is sort of an unwritten rule…you get five to seven miles an hour sort of cushion,” Vilsack says. “Well, we’re suggesting that that not be the case. The posted speed limit is the speed limit.” Vilsack says he wants troopers on the road today to understand that as long as he’s governor, he wants them to enforce the posted speed limit. In the past Vilsack has also expressed concern that raising the speed limit would raise Iowans’ auto insurance rates. Today, he’s got a different take. “With strict enforcement and maintaing the speed that we’re currently seeing on our highways, there shouldn’t be increased…accidents and therefore there shouldn’t be any basis or reason for increasing insurance rates,” Vilsack says. The governor says he’s trying to strike a balance because the public is evenly split on the issue and he needed to make a decision quickly. The governor signed the bill in private shortly after speaking with reporters at 9:15 this morning.
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