Drivers react to bill that would raise speed limit on some Ark. highways to 75 mph

HARRISON, Ark. -- Some four-lane state highways could see an increase in speed limits of up to 75 miles per hour if a state bill is passed into law.

The bill passed the Arkansas State House of Representatives last week, and the speed limit increase would only apply to certain roads.

“Controlled-access highways that are outside of urban areas," said State Senator Scott Flippo, R-Bull Shoals. "So you have to have four lanes and be divided by a median in order to qualify.”

But the Arkansas Department of Transportation said it would have to give the speed increases the green light.

The department's public information officer said the concern is for every five mile speed limit increase, you’re drastically increasing everything from the number of accidents to number of deaths.

That worries some drivers in northern Arkansas.

“If you have a speed limit of 75 miles per hour, it sort of assumes you can exceed that by five to maybe even 10 miles per hour," said Wayman Hager, who lives near Mountain Home. "Then you have folks going 80-85 miles per hour, so if you’ve driven in Texas or Oklahoma, which has higher speed limits, it’s sort of frightening.”

The Arkansas State Police is opposed to the bill. Its public information officer said testimony by command staff on two different occasions has focused on the diminishing reaction time to respond to crash avoidance, if the speed limit is increased.

After doing some digging, ARDOT said Highway 65 north of Harrison probably would not qualify for the speed limit increase, because it’s only a partially controlled-access highway.

An example of a highway the department said would be affected is I-49 in northwest Arkansas.

“People are already driving 75, so I think what this bill does it just makes legal what people are already doing," said Flippo. "And a number of other states have already increased their limits up to 75.”

“I think they ought to increase all four-lane speed limits to 75. Especially in the summertime now, vacationing people. A lot more SUVs and things. That would give people a little easier way to go around and get away from them.” said Terry Guntharp, who lives in Gentry.

If passed, the bill would not be effective until on or after July of 2020.