Our view: Let drivers go 80 mph, but let’s curb other road woes at the same time

The proposal is to raise the speed limit on multi-lane highways to 80 mph, up from the current 75 mph.

Herald pull quoted, 3/4/2023
Herald graphic

It’s an issue that’s been considered before, but without gaining approval from the North Dakota Legislature. The proposal is to raise the speed limit on multi-lane highways to 80 mph, up from the current 75 mph.

House Bill 1475 gained approval in the North Dakota House of Representatives in a 65-29 vote and now awaits its turn in the Senate.

Let’s do this, and then finally be done with it.

It wasn’t long ago that the speed limit on all U.S. roads was no more than 55 mph, including the nation’s interstate highway network. That ridiculously slow pace was a reaction to rising fuel prices in the 1970s. Beginning in the 1980s, speed limits began gradually rising throughout the nation, and especially in rural areas.

Generally, the interstate speed limit in most states is no more than 75 mph, although a number of states – including South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming – already have moved to 80 mph. North Dakota should just as well be the next, and here’s why: People are already driving that fast on our rural interstates anyway.


So here’s an idea: Raise the limit to 80, but then boost enforcement of other traffic violations. For example, Senate Bill 2362 seeks to allow police to pull over a vehicle if the driver or passengers are not using seat belts. SB 2362 passed the Senate 31-14 and now moves to the House.

Recently, Grand Forks County Sheriff Andy Schneider said he’s neutral on the proposal to raise speeds on the interstates to 80 mph, but added that “if the Legislature wants to increase the speed to 80, can you at least throw us a bone and make seat belts a primary offense instead of secondary? That will naturally increase people’s awareness and we’ll get more compliance just by making it primary.”

Good idea.

And SB 2169 proposes additional fees for drivers with three or more specified traffic convictions within five years. Among the violations included in the bill are those for serious driving offenses, such as drag racing, overtaking a school bus, driving on the wrong side of the road, overtaking a vehicle on a hill, running a red light and following too closely.

Sen. Dean Rummel, R-Dickinson, said that if SB 2169 passes, it would not be “affecting a whole lot of people, but we’re affecting the ones that are ... very aggressive drivers that need to change their ways.”

These are dangerous habits and ones that perhaps can be reduced if lawmakers put their minds to it.

Of course, 80 mph on the interstate isn’t necessarily the safest speed, and especially for inexperienced drivers or during inclement weather. But again, people are already doing it.

Let’s let them continue to drive 80 mph, legally – but only do it if we clamp down on these other careless and dangerous behaviors.

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