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Not so fast

Raising the speed limit might make sense, but not without more troopers

It's February, and the Legislature is in session. So it's obviously time for Rep. Randy Miller's biennial attempt to raise the speed limit.

The Lake Oswego Republican has made something of a career out of trying to raise Oregon's top speed limit above its present level of 65 mph. In the past, he was stymied by former Gov. John Kitzhaber, an emergency-room physician who believed higher limits would lead to more traffic deaths.

With a new governor in office, Miller is stomping on the accelerator again.

He argues that other western states allow motorists to do 75, and California allows 70 mph. His bill would let the Oregon Department of Transportation raise speed limits on isolated, wide-open stretches of highways in the state.

We don't have a problem with the concept. Anyone who has driven some of Oregon's lonelier highways has wished for the freedom to go a little faster without scanning the roadsides for state police cruisers.

But that brings up the real problem with Miller's bill. There weren't enough troopers to start with, and the state just laid off 129 more.

The last time Miller floated this idea, we said, fine, but enforce the higher limit more strictly than the present one. Most people already drive between 70 and 75 mph much of the time. If the limit goes to 75, will the bulk of traffic be doing 80-85 mph?

We expect they will ' especially with fewer troopers on the road.

If Miller wants to see a higher limit, then we suggest he find a way to restore funding to the Oregon State Police first.

A bit silly

Driving fast is dangerous, but probably not as dangerous as the real no-brainer of driving while watching television or playing video games.

These activities may soon be against the law in Oregon. Legislation has been filed in Salem that would make it illegal to watch display screens that feature entertainment or other material that does not aid a person in the safe operation or navigation of the motor vehicle.

We're sure we're not the only ones who thought such activities were already illegal. And we wonder whether a new law forbidding something so obviously dangerous isn't just a bit silly.

State Sen. John Minnis, a police detective and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said drivers who are watching their Game Boys instead of traffic probably could be cited for careless driving, but writing specific language into the law will give more certainty to traffic patrol officers and judges.

OK. But let's not waste too much time passing legislation like this when there is a state budget crisis to be dealt with.