Concern Grows Over Proposed Speed Limit Increases

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Speed limits might be changing on a road near you.

Legislation could be introduced soon that aims to reduce speed traps by increasing how fast you can go on some Michigan roads, maybe up to 75 or 80 miles per hour.

The debate over raising the speed limit heated up Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Michigan Municipal League in Lansing. Several groups spoke out on the issue -- some in favor, while others voiced safety concerns.

Senator Rick Jones, (R) Grand Ledge, is working on the legislation and puts his argument for it in simple terms.

"When you set the proper speed limits scientifically, you have less accidents," Sen. Jones said.

"Scientifically" refers to the 85th percentile method, which means setting speed limits according to what 85 percent of people are already driving, and eliminating speed traps. As the former Eaton County Sheriff, he feels strongly about this legislation.

"I even encouraged my officers, I told them 'Don't write a ticket that you wouldn't write to your son or your mother.' Only write good tickets," Jones said.

He argues speed traps target the working class, and increasing speeds in some areas will actually make things safer. Michigan State Police and the National Motorists Association agree with the proposed legislation.

"Reduces tailgating, passing, lane chopping, sometimes aggressive driving," James Walker of the National Motorists Association said. "It tends to make the flow the smoothest and most even."

But not everyone wants to put the pedal to the medal. Many drivers and parents don't see a need for the speed to increase.

"Seventy is very accurate as far I'm concerned," driver Jim Field said.

One of the biggest concerns is for children and pedestrians on the roads just outside of school zones or busy downtowns.

"Where they are just kind of out at the mercy of the speed limit that's set at those streets," Adrianna Jordan, Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator, said. "You have to keep in mind the context of the community where you're setting the speed limits."

That means everyone who uses the street -- not just drivers. The Michigan Department of Transportation said it's tough to balance all these interests, but that's what they have to do.

"At the end of the day, we have to make sure that whatever goes out there is the best for the public in general," MDOT Engineer of Design Brad Wieferich said.

MDOT isn't taking a stance on the legislation, but it's monitoring the progress closely.

Wieferich said speed limit changes are a surprisingly emotional issue, and MDOT encourages the public to contact them with any questions or concerns.

Senator Jones' legislation consists of five bills. He hopes to have a final draft that most people can agree on in about a month.

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