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New bill aims to raise MI speed limit

December 10, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Under new house bill 5964, state speed limits could hit 80 MPH on rural freeways

increasing speed limits

State speed limits could soon reach 80 miles per hour on “rural” freeways under new proposed legislation recently introduced in the Michigan House.

The five-bill package, introduced by Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford), is similar to previous Senate Bills proposed early this year. HB 5964 would give the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police the authority to designate “rural access freeways,” and speed limits for those specific highways would be set at 80 mph unless otherwise specified.

The proposed legislation would follow the “85th percentile” model, which is based on a study that states an appropriate speed is that which 85% of the cars are going (or lower) when conditions are stable. The remaining 15% of the vehicles are going faster.

Rep. Jacobsen contends studies show a majority of Michigan residents are already speeding.

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.

I wrote about the previous Senate bill proposals in April of this year and was interviewed on Fox News and in the Detroit Free Press on why higher speed limits equal more deadly car accidents.

And as I told Kathy Grey from the Detroit Free Press:

“We are increasing speed limits at the exact same time that there is more distraction in our car than ever. When you increase speed, two things happen: Your safety cushion of being able to react quickly disappears, and the collision that ensues is going to be more severe.”

My message for Ken Braun and those who don’t see a safety issue with speeding

I stand by the above statement I made to The Freep, even though Ken Braun, who “was a legislative aide for a Republican lawmaker in the Michigan House and worked for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy” recently took issue with it in a recent MLive editorial.

In particular, here’s what Brawn had to say about me (I take it as a compliment – although it’s unfortunate Mr. Braun can’t see the dangers of distracted driving):

“It takes a lawyer to explain when common sense isn’t winning.

“This package of bills is horrific,” wrote auto accident attorney Steven Gursten, in an April blog post denouncing the previous version of the 80 mph concept.

“Speed kills,” the counselor-busybody assures us three times before predicting a hike in road carnage that isn’t worth it just “so people can get to Starbucks, the mall or the office a few seconds quicker.”

My response?

Mr. Braun, I noticed you chose not to include the following points I had previously made in your MLive column. As driving speed increases, there is an exponential increase in the risk of a car driver being killed in a crash, according to a study presented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Increased driving speeds also result in increased injury severity and crash severity. A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety showed that the relationship of speed to crash severity is unequivocal.

Plus, with the occurrence of distracted driving – and the accompanying dangers – growing every day, increasing driving speeds makes even less sense from a safety perspective.

During my nearly 20 years as an auto accident attorney, I’ve helped many people and families whose lives have been destroyed by speeding motorists and truckers.

Unlike you, I know firsthand the devastation that high-speed driving can cause.

So Mr. Braun, you, and people like you, can choose to attack lawyers and make ad-hominem attacks when you cannot or choose not to respond.  That’s fine, since I note you are a lobbyist (pot, meet kettle).

People who have paid agendas like yourself have made plenty of personal attacks on lawyers before.  You or people like you said similar things about the attorneys who stopped manufacturers of children’s flammable pajamas, the attorneys who sued to stop exploding cars (sadly, then and now with the GM ignition switch cover-up coming to light), and the lawyers who pioneered civil rights when politicians would not.

I’m pointing out that with the dangers of distracted driving becoming more dangerous than ever, increasing speed limits is going to remove that critical safety bumper, and that’s going to cause a lot more car accidents. Those involved in these car accidents are going to be more seriously hurt because of the physics of cars moving faster.

You have chosen not to respond, other than to point out that the person who is making this observation is a lawyer.

Your silence is noted.

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