The Washington Post

Florida speed limits going up

Top speed limits in the United States. (Graphic: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

The closest vote in the Florida state legislature this year wasn’t over divisive issues like allowing the children of undocumented immigrants the right to pay in-state tuition, or big pension reforms. It was over speed limits.

The state House on Wednesday passed a measure raising the Sunshine State’s speed limits by a single vote, with 58 members voting in favor and 56 voting against.

The bill would allow state traffic engineers to boost speed limits by 5 miles per hour if they determine individual roads are safe enough for faster travel. Current law sets the speed limit at 70 miles per hour on interstates, at 65 miles per hour on highways with a divided median, and at 60 miles per hour on some rural roadways, the Tampa Tribune reported. It’s the first time since 1996 that Florida lawmakers have given the okay for faster speeds.

Consumer and traffic safety groups opposed the bill, citing traffic statistics that show 30 percent of traffic fatalities on highways are caused by speeding.

The state Senate passed the measure by a much wider 27-11 margin earlier this year. It will now be sent to Gov. Rick Scott (R), though Scott’s office has not said whether he will sign the bill.

Florida would be the second southeastern state to raise its top speed limits to 75 miles an hour, following Louisiana. Most Mountain West states cap speed limits at 75 mph. Texas allows drivers to zoom by at 85 miles per hour, the highest level in the country, while drivers in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah can travel at 80 miles per hour.

Most eastern states cap limits at 70 mph, while northeastern states settle for a relatively sluggish 65 mph. (Click here for an interactive version of the above map, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

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