COLUMBUS — Drivers can legally zip along some rural interstate highways more quickly as a new 70 mph speed limit takes effect around Ohio.
The change beginning today raises the speed limit in some areas from 65 mph to 70 mph. Ohio becomes the 34th state to make the change.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said the speed limit is increasing on more than 570 miles of rural interstate highways, applying to parts of Interstates 70, 71, 75, 76, 77 and 90. It doesn’t cover sections of those roads in major metropolitan areas and a few smaller cities along the way.
New or updated signs will alert drivers about the higher speed limits.
A 70 mph limit already is in effect for the Ohio Turnpike stretching across the northern part of the state.
The state is also raising speeds on more rural roadways. An amendment to the state budget bill signed Sunday by Gov. John Kasich includes an increase to 70 mph on rural freeways.
The National Motorists Association, which advocates for speed limits in line with what 85 percent of traffic is traveling, said the prevailing speed on many interstates already is 70 to 75 mph.
“People tend to drive at a safe and comfortable speed no matter what the posted limit is,” association spokesman John Bowman told The Columbus Dispatch. “And they sort of realize that they reach a threshold where they aren’t comfortable anymore, and they won’t exceed that.”
A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that about 72 percent of vehicles exceeded the speed limit on highways in 2009 — including about 20 percent that drove more than 10 mph over the limit.
Speed-limit increases have been opposed by the Ohio Insurance Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They say higher speeds are dangerous.