Responding to pleas from highway troopers and the state’s sheriffs, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will veto a bill that could increase the speed limit on Florida highways from 70 to 75 mph.
Scott said that he has decided to “stand with law enforcement” who urged him to veto the legislation that narrowly passed the Florida Legislature late last month.
Earlier this month, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who was mourning a colleague killed after being struck by a vehicle told Scott that raising the speed limit “wasn’t a bright idea.” Trooper Tod G. Cloud also told Scott the job he feared the most was working an accident on Interstate 75 because people “do not drive with common sense.”
Cloud talked to Scott following the Ocala funeral of Master Trooper Chelsea Richard. She died along with two others May 3 after they were struck by a vehicle while standing alongside Interstate 75 near a traffic accident.
“I want everybody to stay safe, I don’t want anybody to be injured,” Scott said. “I think by doing this we are doing the right thing for our troopers and the right thing for law enforcement. I’ve been to too many law-enforcement funerals.”
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.
Legislators only approved the bill after a contentious debate where opponents said raising Florida’s speed limits would embolden motorists to drive faster and result in more accidents.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and one of the sponsors of the bill, contended that the safety concerns were not accurate.
“Unfortunately, the issue became more about emotion than about facts,” Clemens said. “We’ve raised the speed limits in the past and it simply did not result in increased fatalities.”
The maximum speed on Florida highways has been 70 miles per hour since 1996.
The Florida branch of the motorist organization AAA and several Florida sheriffs praised Scott for his decision to veto the legislation.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who is currently president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, called the veto “welcome news.” Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president of the Auto Club Group, said that “maintaining Florida’s current speed limits will undoubtedly prevent injuries and save lives on our roadways.
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