CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would have increased the speed limit to 80 mph on some interstates and four-lane limited access highways got stopped in its tracks Tuesday when the Senate Transportation Committee failed to act on the measure.
The measure (SB 96) would increase the speed limit to 80 on all interstates and corridor highways that aren’t running through city limits. Most of those highways are now posted at 70 mph, some at 65 mph.
State Division of Highways Traffic Engineering Division Director Cindy Cramer told the committee the change would cause more traffic deaths.
“Given the (geography) in West Virginia, we believe this would create increases to the fatality rate and increase the severity rate of crisis,” Cramer said.
West Virginia Insurance Federation President Jill Rice agreed with Cramer.
“Increased speeds make crashes more likely, makes stops harder to do and it makes collisions more deadly,” Rice said.
The number of deadly crashes on West Virginia highways has decreased by 37 percent since 2007. That decrease has mainly come on secondary roads, Cramer said. Deadly crashes on interstates and corridors have remained about the same.
Senator Chandler Swope (R-Mercer) said the bill had some problems and unless it was going to cut down on the time it takes to drive through the state, there’s no reason to change it, he said.
“I’m not afraid of 80-mile-an-hour speed limits but if it’s up and down in very short increments it’s going to perhaps create (more) problems,” he said.
When it was time to vote on the bill Tuesday, none of the committee members made a motion to forward it on in the legislative process. The meeting was then adjoined. The bill had three committees to go through before making it to the Senate floor.
The DOH said making the change to 80 mph would have cost the agency about $175,000 for new signs and other requirements.
The 80 mph speed limit is only in effect in a handful of states including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.