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LB1009 has advanced to General File. If passed, it would allow for higher speed limits on sections of Interstate 80 and other highways across Nebraska. Adoption of this bill would place all highway users at risk.

There are time savings associated with this bill, but the savings would be minimal. A motorist traveling from Omaha to Lincoln (50 miles) at 80 mph versus 75 mph would save approximately 2.5 minutes, or 150 seconds. But this is where the savings end.

At higher speeds, there is greater potential for loss of vehicle control, increase in crash severity, and more severe injuries.

At 80 mph, the average stopping distance on dry pavement for a passenger vehicle will increase approximately 40 feet compared to a vehicle traveling at 75 mph. The total estimated stopping distance for a car with good brakes on dry pavement traveling at 80 mph is estimated at 440 feet, or 29 car lengths.

Our interstate system attracts a high percentage of commercial truck traffic. Trucks can’t stop as quickly as passenger vehicles, and, when traveling at high speeds, the distance they need to bring their vehicle to a safe stop is nearly twice that of a passenger car.

Recognizing the risks and hazards traveling at high speeds, and the increase in fuel consumption, some trucking companies adopted policies requiring their operators to travel no faster than 65 or 70 mph.

Disparity in speeds on our interstate system will increase the risks. Higher speed limits will also make it more challenging near entrance ramps as trucks attempt to accelerate to merge with the traffic flow. The Nebraska Trucking Association and Crete Carrier Corporation spoke out in opposition to this legislation.

A big concern is driving at night. At high speeds on an unlit roadway, a pedestrian, road debris, animal or stranded vehicle may not become visible to a driver until it’s too late to stop. Higher speeds will increase this risk.

Separate research studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety raises concerns about headlights on passenger cars, SUVs and pickup trucks. The results are alarming and show that most headlight systems on vehicles sold in the U.S. are woefully inadequate for nighttime driving at highway speeds.

Nebraska does not have a primary texting law to help prevent distracted driving. Our state does not have a primary safety belt law to prevent serious injuries and ejections. All of the restrictions tied to our graduated driver’s license law that apply to our youngest generation of newly licensed drivers are enforced as weak secondary measures. Nebraska’s child passenger safety law falls critically short of meeting the model national standards as it only provides protection through age 5.

From the year 2007 through 2016, some 2,170 lives have been lost on Nebraska roadways, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Another 169,971 were injured during that period — some sustained lifelong injuries impacting their quality of life.

Why increase the deadly risks that already exist on our state’s roadways by increasing the speed limit? Instead of saving seconds, shouldn’t we focus on efforts that will prevent crashes and save lives? We urge our policymakers to vote no on LB1009.

Rose White is traffic safety director for AAA Nebraska. She lives in Omaha.


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