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Published: Wednesday, 2/11/2009

Keep truck speed down

RAISING the speed limit for trucks in Ohio was never a good idea. But the notion persists that somehow faster truck traffic would mean safer driving conditions, despite evidence to the contrary.

Another push is on in the state and in Congress to permit higher truck speeds. In 2004, truckers were pleased that the Ohio Turnpike raised the limit for trucks to 65 mph to lure lost revenue back to the toll road.

Now the Ohio Trucking Association wants the same speeds implemented throughout Ohio. The trade group maintains that if trucks were allowed to go the same speed as cars, accidents would decrease.

At least one study says otherwise. According to Lt. Shawn Davis of the Ohio Highway Patrol, a 2006 study on turnpike accidents following the speed-limit increase showed crashes involving commercial vehicles rose 32 percent.

Nevertheless, Lauren Hakos, a turnpike commission spokesman, echoes the truckers' position, insisting that a uniform vehicle speed limit would result in the safest driving conditions. "It keeps vehicles flowing smoothly and allows motorists to navigate without speed variance, which can contribute to crashes," she said.

So can a 40-ton truck going 65 mph, which takes 100 feet longer to stop than one traveling at 55. Moreover, adds the patrol, the faster a truck is moving the more damage is likely in a collision.

The American Trucking Association is lobbying Congress to enact a national 65 mph speed limit for all vehicles, arguing that such a move would save fuel and reduce crashes. But a one-size-fits-all speed limit, which may have appeal in western states with wide open expanses of lightly traveled interstates, remains a bad idea for more populated states with older infrastructure. In addition, there are serious concerns among ordinary motorists that big rigs already are barreling down the road too fast.

Leaders in Columbus and Washington should stand firm against those who would raise speed limits. Such a move is, we believe, not in the best interest of the overall motoring public, especially those sometimes forgotten four-wheelers.

Remember: Trucks aren't the only vehicles on the highway.

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