Sponsored by Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, the legislation would authorize the state Department of Transportation to raise the limit on interstates and other controlled-access highways where engineering and traffic studies show it would be safe and reasonable.
The measure passed the Senate Transportation Committee on a unanimous vote Wednesday and has the support of the DOT.
Hunt said he envisions higher speed limits being used for stretches of interstate in rural areas, such as parts of Interstate 40 heading to Wilmington.
"(It's) just to move traffic along. A lot of times, it's not crowded. You have the opportunity to go a little faster without worrying about getting a ticket," he said. "(It's) just the opportunity to get where you're going a little quicker."
Hunt said the change will not affect the state's eligibility for federal highway funding, and he does not believe it will pose an additional safety risk for drivers.
Not every driver agrees, however.
"I think what we have now is good enough. We have enough accidents on our major roads. We don't need to be raising speed limit anymore," said Patricia Kandefer of Wake Forest. "People need to slow down in life. People are in a rush (and) should slow down a bit more."
Scott Blount of Nashville said he already pushes the 70 mph speed limit but likely wouldn't go faster than 75 mph.
"I would fear for my safety and other people's safety," Blount said.
Research by legislative staff shows 16 other states allow speeds up to 75 mph. All but two of those states – Maine and Louisiana – are in the western U.S. Texas and Utah allow speeds of 80 to 85 mph on specified segments of highway.
"I don't think it's a bad idea," said Taylor Adcox, a freshman at North Carolina State University. "I think, for the most part, people are competent drivers and able to deal with it.
"It wouldn't be a huge problem with safety issues," Adcox said, adding that he "mostly" obeys the speed limit.