Feb 01

Jon Zimmerman

Will Washington Raise the Speed Limit on I-90?

by Jon Zimmerman

From Seattle to Spokane, a speeding ticket is one of the most common reasons citizens have an interaction with a court. Failing to properly deal with a speeding ticket can result in increased insurance premiums, a loss of employment, and even a loss of one’s privilege to drive.

In many areas of Washington, lawmakers are lowering the speed limit. This happened in Seattle last year. But Senator Brian Dansel (R-Republic), wants you to be able to drive on I-90 faster than current law allows. According to the Spokesman-Review, the Ferry County senator has sponsored legislation to attempt to increase the speed limit to 75 miles per hour in parts of the state.

In Washington, speed limits can vary depending on whether a driver is traveling on an interstate, a city street, a county road, a state or federal highway, or even an arterial. Different speed limits may also apply to different types of vehicles.

The maximum lawful speed on a Washington State highway is 60 miles per hour; however, portions of I-5 and I-90 that go through Washington have a higher maximum limit. For example, in Snohomish County as well as in parts of eastern Washington, drivers might observe that the speed limit for cars is 70 miles per hour. However, one lawmaker wants drivers to be able to drive up to 75 miles per hour on parts of I-90 in Kittitas, Grant, and Spokane Counties.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission are entirely against raising the speed limit 5 miles per hour. WSDOT’s reasoning is that annual fatalities will increase by 1.27 and a higher speed limit would bring an estimated $8.3 million in annual safety costs, probably because police will issue fewer traffic tickets. In other words, it is apparently 1.27 lives per year safer to have the police pull over more motorists under a lower speed limit and issue more tickets because a 70 miles per hour limit creates more money for the State of Washington! While I understand that the State does not want to lose money and that public safety is a primary concern, the area of the state at issue is not particularly crowded. I-90 is not a one or even a two-lane road. Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, 17 states currently have speed limits at 75 miles per hour, and earlier this month Michigan became the 18th state to allow an increase to 75 miles per hour.

What I don’t understand is why WSDOT, if it truly cares about public safety, doesn’t ban motorcycles. Motorcycles are dangerous, and people in Washington die riding them, at an incident rate of a lot higher than 1.27 annual fatalities. Insurance for motorcyclists is currently not required, and head and associated motorcycle injuries cost the State of Washington a ton of money. This fact should probably be an area of greater concern to WSDOT and the Traffic Safety Commission.

You can read more here about the bill to increase the speed limit, Senate Bill 5053.