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Bill aims to cap speeding fine at $15

Front side view of black luxury sedan in turn.Arizonans who have trouble staying below the speed limit on state highways may soon find they can do so without fear of losing the licenses – or even getting a stiff fine.

Without dissent the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted Tuesday to set the maximum penalty for driving up to 10 miles per hour over the posted limit at just $15.

But HB 2662 doesn’t stop there.

A violation would not add points to a driver’s license. And a citation could not be reported to insurance company so it could raise a motorist’s rates.

That 10 MPH grace factor is not absolute.

Driving faster than posted in work zones or residential districts would still generate a regular speeding ticket. And forget about ignoring the 15 MPH speed limit in school crossings.

But the legislation which now needs approval of the full House makes 85 miles an hour the enforceable maximum speed limit in Arizona rather than 75 MPH now on stretches of rural highways.

The legislation has its roots in the 1970s during the Arab oil embargo when the federal government told states to set the maximum speed limit to 55 or lose highway dollars.

Arizona lawmakers complied. But in 1982 they found a loophole: Keep the double-nickel speed limit but effectively allow motorists to drive up to 65 by designating that a “waste of a finite resource” and setting the fine at $15.

With the federal 55-mile cap long gone, Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, decided to expand the law and block police from issuing regular traffic citations to those driving just 10 miles an hour over whatever the signs say along the highway. Stevens said his legislation is no big deal.

“No one’s complaining about it at 55,” he said of those stretches of urban freeways where that remains the speed limit and officers can only cite motorists doing less than 65 for wasting gasoline.

Anyway, Stevens said, it’s not like police see driving at 10 miles over the limit as anything serious. He said that’s why photo radar cameras are set so they do not trigger at anything less than an 11 MPH violation.

That does not mean, however, that motorists are free to push it without fear. Bart Graves, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said there is no policy against citing motorists for driving just a few miles over the limit, with the decision left each time to officer discretion.

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