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Published: 7/6/2003

How is faster safer?

State Sen. Jeffry Armbruster should know better. The former member of the Ohio Turnpike Commission and current chairman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee is floating the dangerous idea of raising truck speed limits on the turnpike for three months as an experiment.

The North Ridgeville Republican may be a stalking horse for Sen. Lynn Wachtmann's proposed legislation to raise the speed limits of trucks to 65 mph on interstates. Past efforts by the Napoleon Republican to curry favor with the trucking industry in northwest Ohio have gone nowhere.

His measure would probably die again in committee but for Senator Armbruster's notion to hold it in the Senate if the turnpike agrees to let trucks go faster for a few months. The former turnpike commissioner says the pike's cross-state length and limited access make it ideal for a trial.

Fortunately for anyone who travels regularly on the Ohio Turnpike, Mr. Armbruster is no longer on the commission. But surely when he was, the Ohio State Highway Patrol could have given him an earful on truck traffic, speeds, and tickets.

The patrol, which thinks allowing trucks to speed even more than they already do is insane, reports that 74 percent of traffic tickets issued to truckers on Ohio interstates in 2001 were for going faster than 65 mph. Some 2,500 citations issued were for speeds in excess of 75 mph.

That's no surprise to turnpike motorists who are frequently forced to hang on for dear life as mammoth semis blow past. Needless to say the patrol has a problem with the Armbruster plan for the pike.

“We don't support changing one of the safest roads in America by increasing the speed limit,” said patrol spokesman Lt. Rick Fambro. The highway patrol is joined in its opposition to higher truck speeds by the American Automobile Association and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

And while the trucking industry lobbies heavily for Mr. Wachtmann's wishful thinking, the Owner Operators and Independent Drivers Association doesn't speak for all truckers on the road. The Ohio Trucking Association is neutral in the debate, and Vern Garner, president of a Findlay trucking company, has argued that trucks go too fast now, “especially in Ohio, where we have so much population and traffic.”

Besides blaming his legislation's repeated failures on the highway patrol - stickler for safety that it is - Mr. Wachtmann also cites the public's “negative feeling toward trucks.”

We would suggest that there's a good reason for that negative feeling and it will only intensify if truckers push the pedal even closer to the metal.



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