Tuesday, Nov. 16

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55-65, live-die decision in hands of
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[NOV. 16, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- joined by AAA officials, leading national safety organizations, family members of a crash victim and supportive legislators -- called upon lawmakers Monday to put the safety of their constituents first and uphold his veto on increasing the trucking speed limit to 65 miles per hour. Gov. Blagojevich vetoed Senate Bill 2374 because of his concern for safety on our state's highways. The members of the Illinois Senate voted to override the veto last week, and it could be called for a vote in the House this week.

Under Senate Bill 2374, trucks would be able to drive 65 miles per hour on more than 2,000 miles of Illinois highways, including 1,938 miles of interstate highways, 118 miles of four-lane divided roads and 52 miles of other freeways.

"It's a matter of public safety," Gov. Blagojevich said. "Ten miles per hour can be the difference between life and death for a person in a car. A truck traveling at 65 miles per hour will strike a car with an impact 40 percent greater than one traveling at 55 miles per hour. Raising the speed limit for trucks means more people will die on Illinois highways.

"The safety of families who travel on Illinois highways is more important than any arguments advanced by the trucking industry. That's why I'm urging the House to uphold my veto of SB 2374."

From the time the 65-55 speed limit was imposed in Illinois in 1988 through 2001, there was a 22 percent decrease in fatal crashes involving tractor-trailers. Semi crashes declined, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Study, despite a 58 percent increase in the number of vehicle miles driven by large trucks on rural interstate highways during the 12-year span.

Joining Gov. Blagojevich on his call to state legislators were family members of Paulette Nelson, a recent victim of a crash involving a tractor-trailer. On Sept. 11, as she was driving southbound on Interstate 94, her Toyota was violently rear-ended by a semi. Ms. Nelson, 57, a teacher for 30 years at Trinity High School for Girls in River Forest, died from her injuries. Her husband Barry, 61, was also injured in the accident.

Alan C. McMillan, National Safety Council president and chief executive officer, stood with the governor Monday, saying: "As the leader in providing solutions for reducing unintentional deaths and disabling injuries, the National Safety Council fully supports the governor's goal to ensure safety on Illinois highways by maintaining the current speed limit for trucks. The research is clear: When thousands of trucks increase their speed, collisions, serious injuries and fatalities also increase substantially."

According to AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when tractor-trailer trucks travel at speed rates of 55 mph or higher, it significantly increases the likelihood the truck will either jackknife or roll over.

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Steve JN Bernth, president and chief operating officer of AAA Chicago, applauded Gov. Blagojevich's efforts to ensure Illinois' highways are as safe as possible. "We admonish the experts and opinion leaders of the House of Representatives to do the same by upholding his veto," Bernth said. "AAA Chicago feels strongly that upholding the governor's veto of SB 2374 would in effect save lives."

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,980 people were killed in the United States in crashes involving large trucks during 2001. Of these, 74 percent were people in cars or other passenger vehicles.

The Illinois Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Division reported that in 2004, to date, there have been 97 fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers, with a total of 113 deaths. The numbers for 2003 were 125 fatal crashes, with 154 deaths. Illinois already ranks eighth in the nation in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that as many as 111 more people will die on the state's highways if the speed limit for trucks is raised to 65 mph.

Missouri, Iowa and Kansas all allow tractor-trailer trucks to travel at the same rate as passenger vehicles. From 1995 to 2001, involvement of large trucks in fatal crashes increased by 27 percent. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan limit truck highway speeds at levels below that of passenger vehicles. From 1995 to 2001 involvement of large trucks in fatal crashes decreased by 15 percent, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA statistics.

"As the state's chief advocate for safe highways, I have to oppose SB 2374 because there is a mountain of evidence that suggests raising the speed limit for trucks to 65 mph will make our roads more dangerous and lead to increased fatalities," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin. "Seat belts and air bags will offer little protection to passengers in a car when an 80,000-pound semi slams into it."

Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent said: "It is the duty of the Illinois State Police to safeguard the roadways of Illinois for the motoring public. Therefore we fully support the governor in his resolve against raising the speed limit for trucks."

[News release from the governor's office]

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