OOIDA to Ohio Senate panel: Split speeds simply not safe

An Ohio Senate panel met June 10 to hear comments on ending split speed limits in the state. Making a robust case for the demise of split speeds were OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer, former top trucking official Julie Cirillo and OOIDA member Dick Chambers of Cridersville, OH.

The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee wanted feedback on a Senate bill introduced last month that would eliminate provisions in Ohio law that set up a slower speed for vehicles with a gross weight of more than 8,000 pounds.

Currently, those vehicles are required to travel 55 mph — 10 mph below the 65 mph limit for other vehicles. Under SB94, all vehicles would have a 65 mph speed limit. Highways in urban areas would remain at 55 mph for big rigs.

OOIDA’s Todd Spencer testified the existing policy of requiring trucks to drive at speeds 10 mph slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on the highways. Spencer said it did exactly the opposite, requiring that vehicles be constantly in conflict with each other.

“Lane changes and passing are constantly required to avoid crashes,” Spencer said. “While some may suggest that having slower speed limits for trucks can somehow promote safety, there is much research to suggest otherwise. Forty states currently have uniform speed limits for all vehicles using their highways. Additionally, the Legislature in Illinois voted for uniform speed limits in its current session by wide margins, and the bill has been sent to the governor for his signature.

“Senate Bill 94 is not about trucks driving faster; it is about easing congestion, road rage and minimizing the opportunities for vehicles of all sizes to come together and create a crash. This legislation seeks to promote uniform speed limits on Ohio’s Interstate System, which happen to be the safest roads in Ohio.

“By having one speed limit that all vehicles comply with, you minimize the need for passing, lane changes, tailgating and other maneuvers that create opportunities for drivers to make mistakes. This isn’t physics or rocket science. It’s simple common sense that highway engineers have known and followed for decades.”

Julie Cirillo, former assistant administrator and chief safety officer for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told those gathered that research she had conducted on the safety benefits of the Interstate System showed that “the system saves 8,000 lives per year due to access control, wider lanes, shoulders and safe operating speeds. In fact the Interstate Highway System experiences accident and fatality rates two to five times less than the primary system it replaced,” she said.

She referenced research conducted in the early 1960s that first reported the effect of operating speeds on accidents.

“In 1963, David Solomon reported that deviation from the mean speed of traffic in both the negative and positive direction contributed significantly to the occurrence of accidents. In fact, Solomon showed that vehicles traveling 10 to 15 mph slower than the mean speed of traffic were much more likely to be involved in accidents than vehicles traveling slightly above the mean speed. Solomon presented his results in the now famous ‘U-shaped’ curve, which relates variance from mean speed to involvement in accidents.

“Solomon’s study was conducted on two- and four-lane main rural highways. A similar analysis was conducted on the interstate that has higher operating speeds. The data for this study was collected by 20 state highway departments, including Ohio. The analysis showed the same ‘U-shaped’ curve for interstate highways and generally lower accident involvement rates, again confirming the safety benefits of the interstate system. The analysis also showed the variance in speeds on the interstate was between 5 to 7 mph, approximately half that of non-interstate facilities.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration subsequently contracted with Indiana University to conduct a speed-safety study. This study confirmed the ‘U-shaped’ curve established by Solomon and the interstate study.”

Ohio truckdriver and OOIDA member Dick Chambers told the committee, “By raising the limits on the major interstate systems, the state would give truckdrivers a greater incentive to drive on the safest roads in Ohio. Our interstate highways have limited access, are wider, have banked curves and, as many of you know, were designed for speeds in excess of 65 mph.”

—by Keith Goble, staff writer
Keith Goble can be reached at