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Lawmakers meet to discuss bill to raise speed limit to 70 m.p.h.

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MADISON (WITI) -- State lawmakers are debating whether to raise the speed limit on some highways to 70 miles-per-hour. While some say "why not," others worry about safety.

We all drive 65 miles-per-hour -- the maximum speed limit, right? Jesse Laporte says "not really!" He drives 70.

"I'm guilty," Laporte said.

State Rep. Paul Tittl (R - Manitowoc) wants to raise the speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour on highways where the state's DOT deems it safe.

"We are now an island from Oregon to Pennsylvania, and the only state in between that has 65 or less is Wisconsin. Every other state in between has gone to 70 or 75. Utah has one at 80 and Texas has one at 85," Rep. Tittl said.

Rep. Tittl says saving time is important. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says vehicle safety devices do not withstand high-speed crashes very well. More people will die, and the Institute points to a 2002 study finding a 35% rise in traffic crash deaths in the states which raised the speed limits. So far, 37 states have speed limits greater than 65.

"It's simple physics. When crashes occur at a higher speed, the crashes are more severe. The Insurance Institute does crash tests at 40 miles-per-hour and that's considered a severe crash,"

At a legislative hearing before the state's Transportation Committee, lawmakers heard from those who want the faster speeds on the fast track.

"It would be just nice if we had better highways, wider highways, and be able to move on these highways," Rep. Tittl said.

Rep. Tittl hopes to get the bill out of committee in the coming weeks so it can pass by the end of the year.

At Tuesday's hearing, three people spoke -- all in favor of raising the speed limit.