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Local AAA Chapter Blasts Proposal to Raise Illinois Highway Speed Limits

AAA has come out against a proposal to raise speed limits on Illinois’ urban expressways by 10 mph. Photo Eric Allix Rogers

You might assume that an organization whose purpose is to advocate for the rights of motorists would consistently be on the wrong side of traffic safety issues. That’s certainly the case with the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association, which has aggressively lobbied against automated enforcement, even though traffic cameras have been proven to save lives, and for higher speed limits, even though they’ve been shown to result in more crashes and fatalities.

However, the century-old American Automobile Association has often been a voice of reason in debates over safety issues, arguing that, if you’re going to drive a car, you should do so in a responsible and compassionate manner. For example, in 2014 the Chicago chapter of the AAA partnered with the Active Transportation Alliance on an outreach campaign called “Roll Together,” encouraging motorists to drive safely around people on bikes.

"The expanded bike lanes and increased number of bikes on the roads will certainly be an adjustment for motorists," said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA’s local chapter. “But the direction Chicago -- and so many other cities -- is taking to enhance bike lanes and provide healthy, convenient and safe transportation options for all is an exciting one that we all need to embrace. We're excited to work with Active Transportation Alliance to help motorists and bicyclists embrace these roadway changes and share the streets safely."

Sure, some chapters have made missteps in the past. For example, a few years ago AAA Mid-Atlantic essentially went rogue from the national organization’s position by declaring Washington D.C.’s bike lane program a “war on cars,” although that chapter has backpedaled on their anti-bike position somewhat since then.

But AAA Illinois/Northern Indiana put itself squarely on the right side of a safety issue this morning when it announced its opposition Senate Bill 2036, legislation proposed in Springfield that would raise the speed limit on Illinois highways to 75 mph and from 55 mph to 65 mph on urban-area interstates, including Chicago’s expressways. “The bill, if passed, would represent the third time this decade that legislators have voted to increase speed limits on Illinois’ roadways despite Illinois’ rising speed fatality rates,” the group noted in a press release.

“The Illinois legislature cannot ignore the culture of speed that already exists on Illinois roadways,” Mosher said in a statement. “While all of Illinois’ neighboring states have a current maximum speed of 70 mph, Illinois’ percentage of speed-related fatal crash rates is much higher, and this problem cannot be fixed setting even higher speed limits.”

AAA noted that between 2013 and 2015, an average of 39 percent of deadly crashes in Illinois were attributed to speed, far greater than the national average of 28 percent, and above that of neighboring states. Furthermore, the total number of Illinois vehicle deaths rose in 2015 and 2016, and there were more than 1,000 crashes last year, the first time we’ve reached that grim milestone since the last recession hit in 2008.

“The roadway fatality trends in Illinois coupled with its culture of speed are deeply concerning to us and allowing vehicles to go faster only exacerbates this problem,” Mosher stated. “We urge legislators to do what’s best for all roadway users and vote no on Senate Bill 2036.”

It’s good to see that, once again, the folks at our local AAA chapter are also doing what’s best for all road users, rather than pushing for unfettered, and increasingly dangerous, car use like their counterparts at the National Motorists Association.

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