RICHMOND, MARCH 3 -- A Virginia Senate panel today defeated a bill to raise the speed limit for cars to 65 miles per hour on most of the state's interstate highways, apparently leaving Virginia as one of only 11 states with a 55 mph limit.

The Senate Transportation Committee's 8-to-6 vote, with one Northern Virginia senator abstaining, dealt a setback to Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, who pushed hard for the measure, as well as to motorists who like to drive fast.

The House had already passed the bill.

Surprised advocates of the higher speed limit, who had predicted success for the bill before the vote, have not given up hope that the measure might be revived through some parliamentary maneuver, but they acknowledged the chances this year are slim. The General Assembly adjourns March 12.

"The governor is disappointed in the sense that he -- his staff -- was promoting the bill," said Baliles press secretary Chris Bridge. "{But} he recognizes that the General Assembly will determine whether the law will change, and basically they're saying they don't want it to change."

In another action today, a House of Delegates committee killed legislation that would have required trucks to cover their loads to prevent flying sand, gravel and other debris. The 11-to-7 vote was a victory for the state's powerful trucking lobby, which has managed to fend off similar measures for more than a decade.

The proposal to raise the state's speed limit would have applied to rural portions of Virginia's highways, but would have included outlying sections of two major commuter arteries in the Washington suburbs, I-66 and I-95. The Capital Beltway would not have been affected.

Most of the states that have maintained the 55 mph limit are on the eastern seaboard, including Maryland. The highest speed limit in the District is 45 mph.

The 39 states that have adopted a 65 mph limit have done so since last April, when Congress permitted states to lift the 55 mph national speed limit on rural portions of the 42,500-mile interstate system. The 55 mph limit was imposed by Congress in 1973 as an energy-saving response to the Arab oil embargo.

Many opponents of the higher limit, including those in Virginia, warned that it would cost lives and money by leading to a higher incidence of accidents on the highway.

Del. William T. Wilson (D-Covington), who led opposition to the higher speed limit bill, acknowledged that he, as many people, enjoys driving fast and saving time in the long drive to his home district in Southwest Virginia. But after reciting statistics showing that more deaths and injuries would result from a higher speed limit, he said, "If I've got to kill . . . that many people in order to drive fast, I don't want to do it."

Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), a leading backer of the higher speed limit, cited the unpopularity and difficulty of enforcing the current 55 mph limit, comparing it to Prohibition. "The people of Virginia have registered their votes on this measure with their right feet," he said.

The committee member abstaining was Sen. Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington), who said later that he would have voted for the higher speed limit if it would have made any difference in the committee's decision. Because there were eight votes against the measure on the 15-member panel, his vote would not have changed the outcome.