Unsafe at 65 mph

March 20, 1991

"Speed does not kill. Bad drivers kill."

That idiotic statement, uttered by Del. John S. Arnick in defense of a bill raising the speed limit on Maryland's 160 miles of rural interstate highways from 55 miles per hour to 65 mph, reflected the type of "know-nothing" sentiment that carried the day in the House of Delegates last week. House leaders -- including Mr. Arnick -- ought to be ashamed of themselves for supporting such an irresponsible measure.

Speed does kill. Hiking the allowable speed limits will heighten the dangers to drivers and increase the likelihood that any accident could be fatal. Additionally, higher speed limits will inevitably lead to higher gasoline consumption just when the public is acutely aware of the necessity to increase energy conservation measures. And the higher speeds on rural roads will almost surely lead to higher actual speeds along Maryland's overcrowded urban interstates, too.

From a public safety standpoint, allowing a higher maximum speed would be a disaster. Drivers who now try to get away with 65 or 70 mph would push the pedal to 75 or 80 mph on rural interstates. That could turn Interstate 83 in northern Baltimore County, stretches of Interstate 95 in Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties and most of Interstate 70 from Howard County to Western Maryland into amateur speedways.

The state Senate ought to quash this ludicrous bill in a hurry. Forty other states may have sanctioned the 65 mph limit but that is no reason to ignore the obvious advantages of a lower speed limit in terms of conservation and public safety for Maryland drivers.

What makes this debate even more ridiculous is that delegates know Gov. William Donald Schaefer's has a long-standing pledge to veto any 65 mph bill that reaches his desk. Mr. Schaefer understands the dangers of permitting motorists to whiz along rural interstates at such high speeds.

Now it is up to the state Senate to act responsibly on this measure. The 65 mph bill is unsafe at any speed.

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