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Montana lawmakers pitch 85 mph speed limit on interstates

| Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, 8:27 p.m.

HELENA, Mont. — Four state lawmakers are drafting bills for next year's legislative session that would raise the daytime speed limit on Montana interstate highways from 75 to 80 and possibly as high as 85 mph.

State Rep. Mike Miller, R-Helmville, and state Rep.-elect Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, said Utah, Wyoming and Idaho have raised their speed limits above 75, and they haven't had any problems.

“I just think our roads are engineered well, and technology is such we can drive those roads safely,” Wittich said.

Montanans want to be able to drive faster, he said, and should have the freedom to do so.

Sens. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, and Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, also are backing speed-limit bills.

Montana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler declined to comment on the bills until he has a chance to see them, but he told the Missoulian that driving faster reduces reaction time and makes stopping more difficult.

“Our overall goal is to keep everyone in one piece and get them home safe,” Butler said. “Most crashes are a whole lot of little things that come together and become one big thing.”

Windy Boy said he travels around the country to dance at Native American powwows and has driven in states with 80 mph speed limits.

“As big a state as Montana is, for the most part, the traffic is pretty sparse,” he said. “Once in a while, it helps to get from Point A to Point B a little quicker.”

Sales said he spent seven months working in the Bakken oil patch, driving back and forth to Bozeman regularly.

“If I could drive 85 mph on the interstate, it would save an hour,” Sales said.

He said the speed limit in his bill is negotiable. “Eighty-five would be fine with me,” he said.

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