Editorial: Plan for higher speed limit begs for a speed bump

SHARE Editorial: Plan for higher speed limit begs for a speed bump
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State Sen. Jim Oberweis | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Follow @csteditorialsState Sen. Jim Oberweis is always in such a rush. He runs for governor. He runs for the U.S. Senate.

Life for Jim is a superhighway, and not just metaphorically.

Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, wants to raise the speed limit on most Illinois Interstate highways outside Chicago from 70 mph to 75. A bill he introduced this month also would raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 on most two-lane highways.

So far, 14 state senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

We have to ask: What’s the hurry?

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Oberweis and other supporters argue that higher speed limits simply bring the law into line with speeds people already are driving. Research shows, though, that when the limit goes up, people just drive even faster.

As a result, many more people are dying on our highways. A study released last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that higher speed limits caused 33,000 additional deaths over the 20 years ending in 2013. Each additional increase of 5 mph leads to 4 percent more deaths, the study found. In fact, higher speed limits take as many lives as are saved by airbags, it said.

Oberweis’ bill follows his earlier successful effort to raise the speed limit to 70 mph starting in 2014 on many Interstates in Illinois.

The benefits of higher speed limits vs. the risk of more accidents and deaths is a discussion worth having. The drive between Chicago and Springfield can get awfully boring. But no decision should be made without thorough research.

Let’s slow up. Hazards could be ahead.

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