Oregon: slowest speed limit west of Mississippi

Oregon: slowest speed limit west of Mississippi »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore.-- At 65 mph, the state of Oregon holds the record for some of the slowest speed limits across the country, but a new state bill is gaining speed to change that.

If two Oregon lawmakers have their way, a white Mitsubishi would have never been pulled over for speeding through Eugene on Friday.

"The reason I stopped you is I checked your speed with a laser back there at 74 miles an hour," Sgt. Andy Kenyon told the driver. "Were you aware of your speed at all?”

The listed speed limit where Sgt. Kenyon pulled him over? 65 mph.

But Sens. Jason Atkinson and Bruce Starr are trying to amend House Bill 3150-A, an effort that could increase speeds on interstates by 10 mph on rural interstates.

Currently, the state of Oregon posts the slowest speed limits west of Mississippi, but it is not alone. Oregon joins 15 other states across the country with a max speed of 65 mph on rural interstates, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The fact of the matter is that today’s cars are far more fuel efficient and far more safety oriented than when 55 was the national standard," said Atkinson. "And quite honestly, many Oregonians are already driving in the 70 mile an hour range so we just want to modernize our state and that’s really what it will do."

But some say increasing speeds would only do more damage.

The Oregon Transportation Safety Administration says that increasing speeds higher than 65 mph will lead to a projected increase of two to 11 more fatalities each year on Oregon roads.

In fact, in Oregon the number of fatalities has decreased.

"In 2010 Oregon experienced all across the state the lowest fatality count of 318 people that were killed last year on the public road system," said Troy Costales an Administrator for Oregon's Transportation Safety Administration. He says that's the lowest total of fatalities Oregon roadways have seen since 1944.

"When states increased above the 65 mile per hour speed limits, no state in the country saw a decrease in their traffic fatalities following that change to higher than 65 miles per hour," said Costales.

But the senators argue speeds of 65 mph are outdated.

"States that immediately surround us: California, Idaho, Nevada and Washington state are all 70-75 miles an hour," said Atkinson. "There are some states that are already as high as 80 miles an hour."

The concept of increasing speed limits has been around for many years, even vetoed by the governor on several occasions. Now the compromise is allowing the Transportation Commission the discretion to raise speeds based on the proposal if it determines it's safe.