Rep. David Smith, D-Nashua, said his real motive is to keep motorists traveling in the right lane, unless they're trying to pass. He said he believes this will make it easier to direct the flow of traffic around construction projects.
"New Hampshire - along with a lot of other states - is going to be having lots of construction, especially bridge construction" on the highways, Smith said. That increases the potential for confusion and accidents, he said.
"If slower traffic is keeping right, it's easier for vehicles to merge and go through," he said.
Smith has seen the system work in other states, like Kentucky, which have 70 mph on divided highways, but with a stay right provision.
The bill will have a hearing today before the House Transportation Committee. The session starts at noon at the Statehouse in Concord.
If it passes, the bill would give New Hampshire roads the fastest speed limit in New England. But Smith is so serious about the right lane issue that he said he'll drop the provision about raising the speed limit if that's what it takes to get the Legislature to pass the bill.
He doesn't expect opposition to new rules about staying in the right lane. It's the change in the speed limit which will get all of the attention. It's not a new idea, either, he said. But it's one that has been rejected in the past.
Interstate 93, which passes through Salem, Windham and Londonderry, would be one of the highways affected by the speed limit increase. Drivers at the Londonderry Shell station yesterday said Smith's proposal makes sense, as everybody already drives 70 mph on I-93, if not faster.
Sean Costello of Londonderry said he has seen 70 mph speed limits work in Florida, and he would support the move to 70 mph in New Hampshire.
Stephen Consoli of Hudson said the higher speed limit would help him.
"I go back and forth from Salem to Derry three or four times a day," he said. "That would be good for me."
Hampstead police Chief Joe Beaudoin agreed that few people obey the 65 mph speed limit, but he still thinks 70 is too fast for I-93.
"People think it's a God-given right to go 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit," he said. "They'll be going 80 if they increase it 5 mph. I think that's too fast."
So far, Smith said, the state Department of Safety has not come out and opposed the higher speed limit, but that could change. Assistant Commissioner Earl Sweeney said yesterday that his office is aware of the bill and is studying it, but has not taken a position yet.
Smith said he has had conversations with the commissioner, who has promised to keep an open mind, but mentioned that the prevailing view in law enforcement is, "Speed kills." That could make passage something of an uphill climb.
Under Smith's bill, drivers who fail to observe the right lane rules would get a ticket and a fine. He said drivers in the left lane would have to be going 70 mph or approaching it to avoid getting a ticket. They would get a ticket for speeding over 70.
They also would get a ticket for passing in the right lane. Smith said if cars in the left lane are moving too slowly, drivers would have to use their horn and flash their headlights to tell them to move over to the right.