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May 25, 2015

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Nevada lawmaker says ‘speed kills’ a myth, wants higher limits on interstates

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State Sen. Don Gustavson

CARSON CITY — The phrase “speed kills” — often posted along Nevada freeways — is a myth, says a state senator who wants to raise the maximum speed limit from 75 to 85 mph.

Sen. Donald Gustavson, R-Sparks, said studies show that more people are killed in 45 mph speed zones than on high-speed freeways.

Tom Greco, assistant director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the “interstates are very safe” and most fatalities occur on two-lane roads in rural areas.

The Nevada Law Enforcement Association supports the bill.

But the Nevada Trucking Association and the AAA auto club opposed Senate Bill 191. Mary Pierczynski of AAA said higher speeds increase risks and injuries and result in more fatalities.

Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said after Wednesday’s hearing that members have an open mind on the bill and want more information before taking a vote in a couple of weeks.

Committee member Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, said he supports higher speed limits.

Asked about teen drivers, Atkinson, who has a 16-year-old daughter, said most accidents involving young drivers happen on city streets.

This bill is aimed at raising the speed limits on Interstate 15 in Southern Nevada and Interstate 80 in Northern Nevada. There was also testimony that the speed limit could be increased on parts of U.S. 95.

Cheryl Blomstrom of the Trucking Association testified that her group voted unanimously to oppose the measure.

She said raising the speed limit would mean an increase in fuel consumption, and the industry “operates on thin margins, and every penny saved is important.”

If the limit is raised, “you can expect some cars will exceed even that number and that will create a hazardous condition for both the trucking industry and the motoring public,” she said.

Even if the bill is passed, it could be a while before the speed limits are changed. Greco said the transportation department usually does a three-year study before raising speed limits.

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