As the state Department of Transportation begins a six-month study of raising speed limits on Pennsylvania interstates, we offer these words of advice:

Take it slow.

Just because the transportation spending bill approved last week allows the department to hike the maximum speed to 70 mph, that doesn't mean it should give the green light to lead foots everywhere.

Officials say they'll now review the state's interstate system to see which areas are suitable for higher speeds, but already some local legislators are suggesting Interstate 83 through York County as a prime candidate.

The posted speed on I-83 ranges from 55 to 65 mph, depending on the area. The 65 mph-posted stretches are between the Maryland line and Leader Heights and between Emigsville and Harrisburg. The stretch through metro York is 55 mph.

State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, supports bumping up the limits on the 65-mph stretches because traffic isn't heavy there and they can safely handle the increase.

Besides, he said, people in Pennsylvania are already driving 70 mph.

"It's the de facto speed limit anyway," Miller said.

That might make sense if drivers would actually hold it to 70 mph.

But knowing if you give some people an inch they'll take a mile, we have a feeling if you give some drivers 5 mph they'll take 15.


Can these areas safely handle a new "de facto" speed limit of 85 mph?

State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, agrees with Miller, and goes so far as to suggest the metro York area can handle an increase to 60 or 65 mph - but only after a recently proposed widening project on that section is complete.

That's a long way off - years at least.

Maybe adding two lanes for a total of six will make that section of I-83 safe for higher speeds. We won't know until the work is done.

We do know, however, it definitely can't presently handle it. Too often, congestion is too heavy for the speeds posted now.

"It seems like every day ... some portion of it is closed for an accident," said state Rep. Stan Saylor.

The Windsor Republican said he would support raising the speed limit from Leader Heights to the Maryland line - as long as the state proves it can be done safely.

That's the same position taken by the Pennsylvania AAA Federation, which doesn't oppose the move to 70 mph as long as PennDOT adequately studies the safety impact.

We hope the department takes the time - longer than six months if necessary - to do a thorough study and also solicits input from residents in areas considered for speed limit increases.

The last think thing we need is to trade more deaths and injuries for a bit of convenience.