Average highway speeds are on the upswing in Iowa, as the state legislature is expected to adjourn soon without approving an increase in the state's speed limits.
According to a study issued by the Iowa Task Force in Speed Limits, last year, nearly half of the cars and trucks on Iowa's rural freeways broke the 65-mph speed limit. That's significantly more than the 31% who exceeded the speed limits four years ago, after they were raised from 55 to 65 mph.
During 1999, 85% of cars and trucks were traveling at speeds of 69.4 mph or lower, a nearly 8-mph increase from 1996, after new speed limits took effect. Safety planners commonly use the 85% statistic to measure traffic flows.
The task force also found that traffic deaths have increased in five Midwest states where posted speeds have been raised to 70 or 75 mph - Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. In Iowa and Illinois, which have kept the 65-mph limit, traffic fatalities were down. Wisconsin, which also kept a top speed of 65, saw traffic deaths increase slightly during the period.
State Sen. Richard Drake, the Republican chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the research supports his stance against raising the state's speed limit.