The speed limit on Florida highways would increase from 70 to 75 mph under a bill the House narrowly passed, despite arguments that it would lead to more deaths.
The measure passed on a 58-56 vote and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.
Among lawmakers who argued against it was a man whose daughter died in a car accident, a former police officer who has notified families their children have died in accidents and a funeral director who said he has seen his share of victims.
“You never want to get that call: ‘Your daughter died in a car crash.’ Well I got the call, and one of the reasons she died was because of speed,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who has made road-safety issues a priority during his time in office.
The bill (SB 392) would not raise speed limits automatically, but would allow the Department of Transportation to increase them when it saw fit. The department could also raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 mph on other roads.
Bill sponsor Matt Caldwell said that it could be unsafe if a speed limit is set lower than drivers are actually driving.
“I know that there are individuals on the floor who have deep personal experiences that drive their decision making,” said Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. “The law is not an emotional vehicle. It’s a matter of logic and reason.”
There were several emotional stories during the debate.
Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, said there were four times when he worked as a police officer that he had to tell families a relative had died in a crash.
“I remember one time going at 3 in the morning and I took an extra lap around the block because I was so scared to wake a mother up and tell her that her child had died,” he said. “There’s nothing worse for a law enforcement officer.”
Rep. Dennis Baxley admitted he gets a speeding ticket almost every year, but as a funeral director, he said he has had to stand by the casket of traffic accident victims and he couldn’t support a bill that could lead to more deaths.
“I’m Dennis Baxley. I’m a speeder. I can’t vote for this bill,” said Baxley, R-Ocala.