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Can't Drive 85? Bill Sparks Debate About Safe Speed Limits

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Speedometer

A bill before the State Legislature would allow the Nevada Department of Transportation to raise speed limits.

As the Legislature continues to speed through its biannual session, one senate bill is attracting some attention.

Senate Bill 2 would allow the Department of Transportation to raise the maximum speed limit on Nevada highways from 75 to 85 miles per hour.

The bill’s sponsor State Sen. Don Gustavson told KNPR’s State of Nevada he wants the speed limit raised because neighboring states have higher limits. He said Utah has seen an 11 percent drop in crashes on the roads where the higher speed limits are in place.

“What this bill to really do is let people drive legally at the speeds they’re already driving,” Gustavson said.

He said the legislation is written broadly to give NDOT the chance to perform safety studies on roads around the state.

Dr. Alastair Chapman, a trauma surgeon at University Medical Center, disagrees with the plan. He said there are more deaths and more serious injuries in crashes where the vehicle is traveling 76 mph or higher.

“The evidence is fairly definitive in that high speeds result in more crashes, more injuries and more deaths,” Dr. Chapman said.

The trauma manager for UMC, Abbie Hudema said the other problem with high speed limits in rural areas of the state, which are more likely to see a speed increase, is the length of time it takes to get to the hospital after a crash. In trauma medicine, the first hour after a traumatic injury is the most important time to get care and save a patient’s life. Hudema said it can take more than an hour to get victims to a hospital, even if a medical helicopter is used.

Support comes from

The Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol and the Washoe County Sheriff's Department don't want the bill to pass. The representatives of those agencies testified against adoption of the bill earlier this week, saying it would not be safe.

Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.
Guests

State Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks; Puskin Kachroo, director, UNLV Transportation Research Center; Abby Hudema, RN, trauma manager, University Medical Center; Dr. Alastair Chapman, trauma surgeon, University Medical Center

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