Raleigh, N.C. — The state House could vote 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 passed the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, despite concerns voiced by Democrats and Republicans on the panel.
The current maximum speed on North Carolina highways is 70 mph, but bill backers want to allow the DOT to raise it to 75 mph on highways that are engineered to be safe at that speed.
Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, called the proposal "common sense."
"I’ve heard much discussion that everybody’s doing it anyway," he said.
Under current state law, anyone driving over 80 mph can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and have his or her license suspended for 30 days. Iler said the bill won't change that.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, was skeptical.
"Everybody knows that on a 70, you go 80," he said. "That’s the unwritten rule. If we bump it up to 75, they'll set the cruise control at 84."
"We don’t have autobahns," Dollar said, adding that the change could worsen teen driving fatalities. "I think we’re going down a dangerous road."
Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said the reason high-speed highways work in Germany is because drivers there strictly observe the rules, staying to the right and passing on the left.
"When you’ve got people weaving in and out of traffic, it’s not safe," Martin said.
Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said she drives to Wilmington frequently to visit her family.
"That’s a straight-shot, flat highway. I have had people blow by me doing probably 85," she said. "It’s scary. It’s like being on a racetrack sometimes. I do believe there is a safety issue."
Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, agreed.
"I truly believe that at least one person will die because of this bill that would not have died. There is no way I can support this bill," Brown said.
Bill supporters pointed out that the increase is not automatic. The DOT would have discretion to determine where the higher speed would be safe.
The proposal has already passed the Senate.
Most states east of the Mississippi have maximum speeds of 70 mph or less, with the exception of Maine and Louisiana, where it's been raised to 75 mph.