Bills to Change Michigan Speed Limits Hit Roadblock

Bills to Change Michigan Speed Limits Hit Roadblock

by / Friday, 04 March 2016 / Published in Legal News, Michigan Law
Speed Limit sign on the side of the road through two lane highway in desert

Over the past few years, members of Michigan legislature have been considering the idea of making some changes to speed limits on some of the state’s roads. All of those recent efforts never ended up going anywhere, but a recent package of bills with the same purpose did gain a little bit of traction early in February when the bills were approved by the State House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. However, these bills quickly ran out of momentum when they made their way to the rest of the House due to not having enough support.

The bills were introduced by Representative Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) , who wanted to reduce the speed limit on gravel roads. However, once he started investigating the matter, he thought Michigan’s speed limits needed to be adjusted in other ways. Here’s what the bills Jacobsen proposed would have done:

  • Lower the speed limit on gravel roads from 55 to 45 MPH in counties with more than a million residents. Municipalities would have the option of requesting a 35 MPH speed limit instead.

  • Raise the speed limit on state trunk lines (roads that have an “M” and a series of numbers in their name) from 55 MPH to 60 MPH

  • Raise the speed limit for some rural freeways to 75 MPH and create provisions for studies to be done to see if 80 MPH would be a safe, feasible speed limit in these areas

  • Change the rules for speed limits in school zones, making it possible for speed limits to be lowered by up to 20 MPH in the half hour before the start of the school day and the half hour after school ends. Speed limits in school zones would not be allowed to go under 25 MPH.

Of course, many people were concerned that the higher speed limits could result in more car accidents. Recent numbers from the NHTSA showing that the first nine months of 2015 had a steep increase in the number of roadway deaths may have had something to do with that. Opponents of the bill expressed concerns that the state of Michigan’s roads could result in more damage to cars. Many advocates of pedestrian activity and bicycle use were worried that raising the speed limits on those rural roads could endanger pedestrians and bicyclists since many of those roads connect to trails for bicycling and walking.

Five separate bills were part of this package and included:

  • HB 4223, which specified the speed limit changes

  • HB 4424, which made the changes to speed limits in school zones

  • HB 4425, which would have changed the way Michigan State Police and other transportation authorities would be able to change speed limits

  • HB 4426, which would amend the Michigan Vehicle Code to make changes to how points are applied to driver licenses

  • HB 4427, which would have made changes to the Michigan Insurance Code that are related to changes made by the other bills

Had these bills passed in the House and eventually been passed by the Michigan Senate, they would have given Michigan the highest speed limits in the Great Lakes region. In terms of the entire midwest, Michigan would have been tied with South Dakota for having the highest speed limits.

Representative Jacobsen stopped the bills when he realized one of the main ones didn’t have quite enough support to be passed. He says he plans to rework the bills and re-introduce it again in the near future, most likely without the provision to look into raising the speed limit on rural highways to 80 MPH. He believes that experts would not be likely to approve 80 MPH speed limits anyway since those roadways were not designed to accommodate speed that high. Jacobsen told reporters, “I had a number of people who said 80 MPH is ridiculous, you can’t do that.”

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