Raleigh, N.C. — Sorry hot rods. The state House has just said "not so fast" to a bill that would have made driving the state's highways that much speedier.
The measure would have allowed the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on some highways to 75 mph, but it is headed back to committee after debate on the House floor indicated it would most likely fail a vote in the chamber.
Senate Bill 709 has already cleared the Senate, but House members have been more circumspect about the move.
Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said that his mother rarely takes an interest in bills moving before the legislature. But the speed limit, bill he said, had gotten her attention.
"She said, 'Have you folks completely lost your minds?'" Starnes related. Increasing speed limits, he said, would increase the number and severity of accidents and could lead to higher insurance rates.
"I agree with my mother. If we pass this, I think we have lost our minds," he said.
Backers of the bill said that it left the decision in the hands of traffic engineers at DOT.
"We're not going to make the speed limit 75 mph on Jones Street," said Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston, referencing the road that runs in front of the Legislative Building.
The lengthy debate examined and rejected one amendment. Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, observed that, under current law, someone who gets a ticket for going 80 mph or above can lose his or her license and get four insurance points. Under a 75 mph speed limit, that's a stiff penalty for someone who is speeding by only 5 mph, so he proposed changing that threshold to 85 mph.
The amendment failed when other lawmakers realized that the 85 mph threshold would apply whether DOT raised a speed limit to 75 mph or not.
"That's just creating more license to speed," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
As debate on the bill wound on, proponents of the measure noted that cars had gotten safer and the DOT could build roads to better standards, but that didn't win over skeptics.
"There's one factor that we unfortunately cannot say has been upgraded over the years, and that's human beings," Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, said.
Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, quipped, "At 75 mph, you're not driving a car, you're aiming it."
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, the House Rules Committee chairman, observed that it sounded like the bill "needs a little more work" and sent it back to the Transportation Committee.