Come Jan. 1, motorists on Illinois’ rural interstates and tollways will legally be able to drive 70 mph instead of 65 mph.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation Monday, and state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said the legislation helps bring Illinois into the 21st century. Illinois now joins 36 other states that have speed limits of 70 mph or higher, according to a news release issued by Quinn.
“I don’t want to see laws on the books that are widely ignored by most people,” Oberweis said. “If it’s a bad law, it should be changed. I think it was a bad law.”
Kane County is among those that would be allowed to opt out of the new rule. The law also comes with new provisions that lower the threshold for what’s considered excessive speeding from 31 mph to 26 mph.
Oberweis, who was one of the bill’s sponsors, said from a safety standpoint, traffic that’s moving at a similar speed is safer than one car traveling significantly slower or faster than the rest of the roadway traffic.
“If you have all the traffic moving at 70 to 75 miles per hour, going 65 miles per hour is creating more of a traffic hazard,” he said.
He said it also makes sense to allow motorists to travel the same speed from state to state, which may in turn be a positive for Illinois business owners. But the biggest benefit, he said, is reducing the amount of drivers who widely ignore the posted speed limit.
“I think this is a good example of true bipartisan legislation where we can actually get something done and work with people on the other side,” he said.
Last week, Quinn also signed legislation barring motorists from using hand-held cell phones while driving on Illinois roads, according to a news release from the state. The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, still allows drivers to use hands-free devices, such as a headset or voice command.
Another new law signed by Quinn last week taking effect Jan. 1 increases the penalties for those who use an electronic device while driving and cause an accident. Accidents that cause great bodily harm can result in up to one year of jail for the offender, and a fatal accident can result in a prison sentence of one to three years. Those offenses are currently punished as traffic violations, states the news release.
Also last week, Quinn signed legislation barring anyone younger than 18 from using tanning beds and smoking electronic cigarettes, according to another news release from the state. Both laws take effect Jan. 1.
Studies show that people who use tanning beds at a young age increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent, the release states. And while electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance.