Rules Regarding the Speed of Motor Vehicles
Transportation Law: Private Motor Vehicles: Traffic Regulation
State transportation or vehicle codes regulate the speed of motor vehicles. The codes set forth the maximum speed limits that apply to a particular highway or street. The codes also set forth the general duty of a motor vehicle driver to drive at a safe speed in accordance with the conditions of the highway or street.
Most state transportation or vehicle codes set the maximum speed for a vehicle on a divided highway at 55 miles per hour or at 65 miles per hour, unless the vehicle is a truck, is towing another vehicle, or is a school bus. If the highway is an undivided highway, the maximum speed is generally reduced. However, state and local authorities are entitled to reduce the maximum speed for certain highways and for certain conditions as long as the reduced speeds are posted. Examples of such highways include railway crossings, intersections, alleys, and areas around school zones.
A motor vehicle driver is generally not entitled to drive his or her vehicle at a speed that is unreasonable. In order to be driving at a reasonable speed, the driver must pay attention to the weather, the visibility, the traffic, and the surface of the highway or road. The driver cannot drive at a speed that would endanger the safety of persons or property. The driver must be vigilant and must keep his or her vehicle under control.
A motor vehicle driver is prohibited from driving his or her vehicle at a reduced speed when the reduced speed would impede or block the normal flow of traffic. The driver can only drive at the reduced speed when the reduced speed is necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle.
If a motor vehicle driver is involved in a collision, the fact that the driver was traveling at an excessive speed or at a reduced speed does not mean that the driver was responsible for the collision. The driver's excessive speed or reduced speed must also have been the proximate cause of the collision.
Even if a motor vehicle is not exceeding the speed limit, certain conditions may require the driver to reduce his or her speed. Such conditions include reduced visibility, road conditions, curves and grades, intersections, and certain areas, such as residential districts and school zones.
If a driver's visibility is reduced as a result of darkness, rain, or fog, the driver is required to reduce the speed of his or her vehicle in order to permit him or her to react to hazards that may arise as a result of the reduced visibility. If the driver is traveling at a speed at which he or she cannot stop his or her vehicle because of the reduced visibility, he or she is negligent.
A driver has a duty to drive in accordance with the road conditions. If the road is slippery or wet, the driver is required to reduce the speed of his or her vehicle.
A driver has a duty to drive in accordance with the curve and grade of a road. If the road has a steep curve or grade, the driver must reduce the speed of his or her vehicle.
When a driver is approaching an intersection, the driver has a duty to drive at a safe speed, even if the driver has the right-of-way at the intersection. However, if the intersection is marked by stop signs or traffic signals, the driver may not have a duty to reduce his or her speed. He or she has a right to assume that other drivers will follow the stop signs or the traffic signals. However, if the other drivers are not following the stop signs or the traffic signals, the driver has a duty to avoid a collision at the intersection.
Speed limits in residential districts and school zones are generally posted at a lower limit. A driver has a duty to observe the lower limit.
Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.