Pedal to the metal: Safety concerns not left in the dust as speed limit rises

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As recently as 1995, Pennsylvania motorists were limited to driving legally at 55 mph. Soon on two stretches of interstates the limit will rise to 70 mph from the existing 65 mph as a test. It’s already happening on part of the turnpike. But there’s no putting a brake on safety concerns.

The problem is that many motorists already drive over 70 in 65 mph zones, knowing that state police using radar don’t give tickets unless a vehicle is 6 mph or more over the speed limit. That means 70 will be the new 75 for many, even though officers using speedometers in their cars can give tickets for being just 1 mph over the limit.

The speed limit change was permitted by the transportation funding bill enacted last year. But the adage “speed kills” hasn’t been reversed and traffic safety advocates predict more accidents. Still, higher limits are popular with motorists across the country; Pennsylvania is now the 38th state to adopt a limit of at least 70 mph.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced last week that the new 70 mph limit will start around Aug. 11 on Interstate 80 from Du Bois in Clearfield County (Exit 101) to Clinton County (mile 189) and a 21-mile section of I-380 in Monroe and Lackawanna counties. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Turnpike debuted a 70 mph limit from Blue Mountain (Exit 201) to Morgantown (Exit 298 near Lancaster).

This newspaper previously opposed this move but there’s no stopping it now. So rather than saying slow down, you move too fast, we say let these pilot projects be the guide. Pennsylvanians will know soon enough whether this is a wise move.

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