At the start of the New Year, Illinois motorists will be allowed to drive faster -- but the penalties will be stiffer for breaking the speed limit.
The maximum speed on rural interstate highways will be boosted to 70 mph from 65 mph as of Jan. 1. But if that's not fast enough for you, expect to be dealt with more seriously if you're pulled over.
Speeding at 26 mph or more, as of the first of the year, will be a Class B misdemeanor, not just a traffic ticket. Going 36 mph or more than the limit will be a Class A misdemeanor.
That means if you have a serious case of lead foot, you could end up behind bars instead of just being fined.
According to Madison County State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Stephanee Smith, a Class A misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to 364 days in the county jail and fines not to exceed $2,500 or the amount specified in offense, whichever is greater.
A Class B is punishable by no more than six months in county jail and fines not to exceed $1,500, Smith said. Both have maximum of two years of probation or conditional discharge.
Illinois State Police spokesman Calvin Dye said his department had no say in the changes to the law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August. But the agency will work to enforce the limits and otherwise make sure roads remain safe despite the changes.
"We certainly hope there is not an increase in crashes and that motorists are responsible with the new speed limit changes," Dye said. "Our goal is to get motorists to their destinations safely. We always encourage motorists to obey all Illinois traffic laws, avoid distractions and use common sense."
The new law has safeguards as well, said state Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives.
When the bill was signed last summer, Costello noted that the Illinois Department of Transportation was given discretion to change the speed limit back to 65 mph in areas deemed too dangerous for 70 mph.
The increased speed limit matches that of 36 other states, including all states neighboring Illinois except Wisconsin.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.