Heading off trouble on the highway

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Most of the thousands of cars that traverse Baker County via Interstate 84 each day are capable of reaching 100 mph.

But none ever should.

Americans, who can acquire a driver's license without proving they're capable of driving competently at even 40 mph, shouldn't tool along at two and a half times that speed.

American roads are not designed for cars to travel safely at 100 mph, anyway.

Oregon law, as it should, prescribes more severe penalties for drivers who significantly surpass posted speed limits.

If you get caught traveling at 100 mph or more, for instance, you'll pay a $1,000 fine more than twice the tab if a trooper's radar gun clocks you at 99 and you'll lose your license for at least one month, but not more than three.

Those sanctions might seem tough to some people.

But we don't think they're tough enough.

The Legislature should make three changes to the state's vehicle code:

First, legislators should lower the threshold for the more severe penalties from 100 mph to 90 mph.

Such limits are inherently arbitrary, of course. But the state shouldn't give drivers a buffer of 34 mph above the state's maximum posted limit of 65. We doubt there's a substantial difference, from a danger standpoint, between a driver who's doing 90 and one who's going 110.

Second, lawmakers should mandate that whenever a driver exceeds 90 mph, police impound that person's car.

Under current law, officers do not automatically impound cars even when the driver surpasses 100 mph. Police can cite egregious speeders for reckless driving and impound their cars, however.

Third, the Legislature should boost the minimum license suspension from one month to six months, and give judges discretion to extend the suspension to one year.

Drivers who frequently exceed 90 mph make up a small minority of the motorists on Oregon freeways.

But that minority has the potential to cause major, and deadly, accidents. Oregon lawmakers should strive to discourage drivers from taking foolhardy risks, and to achieve that goal legislators must pass laws that force speeders to give up something besides money.

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The Baker City Herald
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Saturday July 30, 2016

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