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Speed kills. With big trucks and buses, speed annihilates.

April 14, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Senate bills 895-898 would allow  trucks and buses to speed up to 70 miles per hour – up 10 mph from the current law

speed limit trucks

We’ve all been there. Watching in our rear-view mirror as a big 80,000-pound, fully-loaded commercial truck is barreling down the road. We’ve all had that sickening feeling in our stomachs as we watch the tractor trailer loom larger and larger behind us.

Most of my most serious injury and death cases as an attorney have involved trucks. It’s physics. Greater mass and weight turns these 80,000 pound trucks into moving “brick walls” (as the defendant truck driver who killed a man who’s estate I represented referred to it last year in trial).  I help the people who are seriously injured when they’re hit by these moving brick walls.

And that’s why I think the new bills introduced in the Michigan Senate to allow commercial trucks and buses to travel at higher speeds are a terrible idea. It’s a  perilous proposed change that will surely  cause more serious crashes, injuries and deaths.

The package of bills (SB 895-898), would increase Michigan’s speed limit laws.

The current Michigan speed limit is 70 miles per hour on rural and urban interstates, except for trucks, which are allowed to go up to 55-60 miles per hour, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Here are the speed limit increases proposed by Senators Rick Jones (R-24th District), Tom Casperson (R-38th District) and John Pappageorge (R-13th District):

  • An 80 mph speed limit on “rural limited access freeways”: Max speed limit in Michigan is currently 70 mph. (SB 896, Page 6)
  • A 70 mph speed limit for trucks and buses: Commercial trucks, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers (weighing 10,000 lbs or more) and buses and school buses had speed limit increased from 60 to 70 mph. (SB 896, Page 4)

MDOT definitions for roads

These bills make it difficult to differentiate a road from a highway, and to understand where the speed limits would actually be raised.

For instance, SB 896, which calls for speed limits up to 80 mph, amends MCL 257.627 to include a new subsection that names a “rural limited access freeway.” But the definition of rural limited access freeway is  to be announced by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Below are MDOT’s definitions for the some of the various roadways:

Freeway: “A freeway is an access-controlled, divided highway designed for the unimpeded movement of large volumes of traffic. Characteristics of a freeway include controlled access through the use of interchanges, and use of underpasses or overpasses at intersections.”

Highway: A “highway” is a “main road that provides direct access to buildings and intersections. Unlike a limited access freeway, a highway has intersections at grade level and signs and signals to control traffic.”

Limited Access: “A highway or section of highway designed for travel by registered motor vehicles. Access is limited to intersections, and driveways are generally not allowed. Freeways are a common type of limited access highway.”

Tomorrow I’ll continue this blog post with the physics of why faster trucks will kill more people.

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