Speeding just a little bit over the limit might soon result in just a slap on the wrist.
On a 40-20 vote the House on Tuesday approved legislation to say that driving 10 miles faster than what is posted is no longer a traffic violation subject to fines of up to $250. Instead it would be “wasting a finite resource,” with the penalty just $15.
Better yet for those who like to speed: The violation could not be reported to the motorist’s insurance company which might use the information to hike premiums. And drivers could accumulate an infinite number of these violations without fear of ever losing a license.
HB 2662, which now goes to the Senate, is the brainchild of Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista. But it actually has its roots in the 1970s Arab oil embargo when the federal government told states they had to set maximum speed limits at 55.
In 1980, however, Jim Hartdegen, then a Republican representative from Casa Grande, discovered a loophole.
The state would keep those double-nickel speed limit signs. But anyone going up to 10 miles over could be cited only under the “finite resource” section.
That effectively restored 65 MPH as the maximum speed limit on state highways.
The federal law is long gone. And Arizona now has posted limits as high as 75.
But what the House approved on Tuesday says that you take any posted speed limit on state roads and highways and apply that same logic about wasting resources.
Put another way, someone driving 55 in a 45 mph zone would be subject only to that $15 fine. It is only when that person hits 46 mph that a real traffic ticket could be issued.
And the same is true right up the scale, making 85 the de facto speed cap on those long stretches of rural interstate.
That doesn’t mean drivers can automatically add 10 miles an hour to every sign they see.
For example, someone who tries to drive through a school crossing at 25 mph will still get stopped and slapped with a stiff fine. Communities are free to enforced posted limits in residential and business districts.
And if the Department of Transportation posts temporary speed limit signs in work zones, those limits remain enforceable at current penalties. In fact, in Arizona fines are doubled when workers are present in those zones.
Only Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, spoke out against the measure during the Tuesday vote.
“On the face of it, this looks like ‘Woo hoo, I can speed and I can only get charged $15 and it doesn’t affect my points, it doesn’t affect my insurance, wow, I get a free ticket, so to speak,’ “ she said, saying she can understand why people would support it. But Steele said the legislation will have an “enormous impact” on cities and towns.
“I think we should let this up to local control, let our local governments make these decisions,” she said.