The price of the high-speed parade
Joe Scarnati, president pro tem of the state Senate, says that Pennsylvanians notice when they drive into other states that speed limits in many of them are 70 mph, rather than Pennsylvania's maximum of 65 mph.
True enough. But before Mr. Scarnati follows through with his proposal to raise the state maximum speed limit to 70 mph on interstate highways and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, he and his colleagues should attend to some other things that Pennsylvanians notice while driving elsewhere.
They notice in many cases, for example, that roads and bridges are in better shape in many other states than in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth continues to have the nation's highest number of structurally deficient bridges, more than 4,000, as the Legislature continues to balk at funding improvements that are needed desperately for the sake of safety and the economy.
Observant Pennsylvania drivers on the road in other states also probably notice that far fewer drivers use hand-held cellphones than back home in the commonwealth.
Pennsylvania belatedly has outlawed texting while driving but, unlike most neighboring states, allows drivers to otherwise use hand-held mobile devices despite abundant evidence of their contributions to distracted driving and crashes.
There have been very few citations under the texting-while-driving ban because police find it impossible to determine, by observation, whether a driver is texting a message or dialing a call. Both are highly distracting and dangerous, and would be more so at 70 mph than at 65 mph.
Modern cars and highways are safer than ever, so it's entirely possible to raise the speed limit without compromising safety. A majority of states have raised their speed limits to 70 mph or higher; 16 have raised the limits to 75 mph and Utah has expanded its 80 mph maximum to more segments of its interstates.
Before Pennsylvania joins the high-speed parade, it should ensure the safety of roads and bridges and outlaw drivers' use of hand-held phones and mobile devices.