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No matter the circumstances, motorists should be allowed to drive on South Dakota interstates as fast as posted limits

PIERRE — Experimental legislation to reduce speed limits during adverse conditions on two stretches of South Dakota's interstate highways hit a dead end Wednesday.

HB 1008 lost in the state Senate. The vote was nine yes and 25 no.

The defeat came after an amendment failed on a 17-17 tie. Senate Republican Leader Blake Curd, of Sioux Falls, had wanted to require a state report on results of the tests.

Curd held the gavel as presiding officer at the time. "I already voted," he told the 33 other senators.

Had Lt. Gov. Matt Michels been presiding, Michels could have voted to break the tie. He was excused Tuesday and Wednesday for travel.

The plan originally would have allowed speeds to be reduced on any segment of interstate highway for traffic, weather or road-surface conditions.

"Differing speed limits may be established for different times of day, different types of vehicles, varying weather conditions, and any other factor that has a bearing on a safe speed," a sentence of the original bill said.

The House of Representatives changed the plan somewhat and approved it 52-16 on Jan. 30.

The experimental stretches still weren't listed in the bill that the Senate received Wednesday. They were planned for the Ward area near Brookings on Interstate 29 and the Tilford area near Sturgis on Interstate 90

When to reduce speeds and how low to go were to be a joint decision by heads of the state Department of Transportation, the state Department of Public Safety and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

The agencies would have informed motorists about lower speeds through electronic signs along the highway and at entrance ramps.

"I can approach this on a hundred different levels," Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, said after Curd's reporting amendment failed. "It will grow and grow. You will be seeing digital signs throughout the state."

Wiik continued: "You have a choice right now to step up and stop this."

Also calling for the bill's defeat was Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison.

"The hard thing on this is it's for safety. It's trying to save lives," Youngberg said.

Speaking in favor was Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center.

"It's already been proven in Wyoming," Cammack said. "These fatalities and these accidents are very real on these stretches of road."

But Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, said there already was a warning sign between Peever and Wilmot exits on I-29.

"They have those warning capabilities which are very important," he said.

Frerichs urged the agencies to use warning signs that are already in place.

Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, asked Stalzer what could be done if the bill didn't pass.

Stalzer said "reasonable and proper" would still be the standard and the decision would still be up to each Highway Patrol trooper.

That answer made Cronin's point.

"The Highway Patrol has the ability to do this now, especially with the warning signs," Cronin said. "I think we can probably come up with something and not be tied to a new program."

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