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The “high speed” bill passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee last week on Thursday, but not before highway safety groups and some lawmakers fretted the higher speeds could fuel road-rage and make highways less safe.

The bill would allow the Florida Department of Transportation to boost maximum speed limits on four-lane Interstate highways from 70 miles per hour to 75 mph. Some rural roads and highways with 65-mph and 60-mph limits could also get five-mile-per-hour bumps if the Department of Transportation deems it necessary to help with traffic snarls.

Aaron DeSlatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief for the Orlando Sentinel, reports that the effort was aimed at trying to adjust to more vehicles on the roadways, and its supporters say there is no evidence that higher speed limits make the roads any less safer, according to the bill's sponsor, State Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

But one critic, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa says driving in Tampa is already hazardous, and she always stays in the far-right lane to avoid people who are cruising much faster than the posted limits.

“It’s congested. There’s accelerated road rage. There are people texting. There are people all over the place,” Joyner said before voting against the bill.

“People are all fired up now. … I don’t want to give people another opportunity to inflict their rage on the people of the state.”

DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad told the panel the department would take current speeding trends and road-rage incidents into consideration before it raised limits anywhere. The DOT would also study any stretch of Interstates 4, 10, 75 and 95 for other natural or “fixed” hazards like vegetation before deciding whether the areas were suitable for higher speed limits.

“That doesn’t mean that every facility would get its speed-limit raised to 75 mph,” said Prasad, who added the department would focus on regions where there is “demand” for higher limits.

I'm not sure it would really make much of a difference. When motorists have the opportunity, they exceed the 70 mph limit on the Interstates, often by 10 to 15 mph, and many would argue that they are simply 'keeping pace' with the flow of traffic. A raise to 75 really means 80 is the minimum, because that (5mph difference) is what police will allow as the permissible margin of error before they pull you over...

Should Florida raise the minimum or is this bill asking for trouble?