Raleigh, N.C. — The state House suddenly halted debate Wednesday on a proposal that would allow the state Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on some highways to 75 mph.
Senate Bill 709 was pushed back to Thursday's floor session after about 10 minutes of debate Wednesday. No explanation for the move was provided.
Before debate ended, a bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed opposition to the idea.
"Life is fast enough," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
Glazier said he feared traffic fatalities would jump as younger, inexperienced drivers and older drivers with slower reflexes tried to negotiate the higher speeds. That, in turn, could lead to higher auto insurance rates for North Carolina drivers, he said.
Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, said no other Southeastern state is looking to raise speed limits above 70 mph, which is the existing maximum speed on North Carolina highways. Most of the states with higher limits are in the West, have "long, flat highways" and lower population densities, he said.
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, said he wanted to keep speed limits in check as a bargaining chip for future toll road discussions.
Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, said DOT studies have determined that 75 mph is a "safe and reasonable limit," and he predicted traffic engineers would find "very few areas" where a higher limit would be appropriate.
"We're trying to get politics out of transportation," said Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston. He urged passage of the bill, saying DOT engineers have the expertise to determine what roads are safe for a 75 mph limit.
AAA Carolinas is against the proposal.
"Fatalities would increase because accidents would be more severe" at higher speeds, said Jodi Woolard with the organization.
Some Triangle drivers on Wednesday expressed mixed feelings about the bill. They said they would like to go faster, but they also worry about safety.
"I think that will be OK as long as people aren't then going 85 in the 75 zone," Christy Wells said.