When is the Speed Limit NOT the Speed Limit?

Speed LimitJanuary in the Bay Area is foggy. Like “where the hell is the front of my car” foggy.

And it’s one of my favorite times of year because the speed limit stops being the speed limit.

Take a look at the picture to the right. The speed limit says “30”, doesn’t it?

But based on the conditions, is 30 mph safe?

I would argue it is not.

That doesn’t mean I cite people for going 29 mph. Don’t lose your mind…I can already feel some of you reaching for the keyboard to bitch and moan about fascism, revenue generation or some such other conspiracy bullshit.

Take another look at that sign.  It’s hard to read, ain’t it? I took that photo this morning with my iPhone 6. The fairing of my bike is pretty clear, but the sign is less so.

If the normal speed limit is 30 mph, at what speed, given these conditions, would you start citing?

Seriously, let’s pretend you’re a cop. Or, if you’re already a cop, let’s pretend you’re a motor. If you’re already a motor, you are excused, because you are already badass and needn’t waste your time reading further (even though I know you will because you are, indeed, badass).

In the picture, the roadway bends to the right. There are dozens of homes, driveways, and side streets on either side of the road. Visibility isn’t great. The road has both lateral and vertical changes. There is a bicycle lane on both sides of the road as well as sidewalks on either side.

CVC 22350 states:

No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for the weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

Speed Limit

How safe would you feel at this speed?

Keeping the description of the roadway and the legal statute above, does 30 mph make for a safe speed limit?

Would it make a difference if you lived on that street? It always makes me laugh when people get bent when I cite them for speeding only to ask them if they’d want someone driving the same number of miles per hour over the speed limit in front of their house.

Question: At what speed would you stop someone and give them a citation for speeding given these conditions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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9 thoughts on “When is the Speed Limit NOT the Speed Limit?

  1. Hahahahahaha. You know I’m not a LEO, MC. However as soon as I saw the question I flashed back to drivers education and said aloud “reasonable and prudent for current conditions”. Thanks for the laugh. Oh my – I’ve been driving for 22 years I now feel old.

  2. It seems only common sense to drive to suit the conditions but common sense isn’t always that common. However, your post did make me wonder how you determine what is a safe speed when conditions are poor. Is there a formula or is it more your professional eye coming in to play? Does the determination of what makes an unsafe speed vary depending on what road conditions are being experienced? Also what would the offender be cited with? Would it still be for excessive speed even if they were not exceeding the posted speed limit or would it be for reckless driving (or its equivalent)?

  3. I’ve driven well below the posted speed limit in code 3 conditions due to having almost zero visibility due to the Tule Fog that we experience here in the Central Valley. It’s only reasonable to drive as if your life and others depend on it, because guess what… They do!

  4. I’m an ex LEO – did it in my 20’s – and had a similar situation. Driving down our stretch of interstate on a early Sunday morning. It had been snowing all night, the plows weren’t out yet and there was at least 4-6 inches of snow on the ground. I’m doing about 35 mph in a 55 zone (because conditions were that bad) in a fully marked patrol car when I get a full sized van zoom by me and other traffic doing 55-60. I literally accelerate my car and it starts fish tailing. I eventually catch up to him and we are both sliding while slowing down to stop. Once he stops I make contact with him, he says he has NO IDEA why I stopped him. Asked him if he thought he was going too fast because of the snow. He’s dumb enough to say no, saying he’s been driving on the freeways for the past 45 minutes and has had no issues. Asked him if him sliding while trying to stop was a issue – he says no. I cite him for driving too fast for conditions. HE HIRES AN ATTORNEY AND TAKES ME TO COURT! I tell our city attorney I’d rather take it to a jury trial than have it dismissed. He makes idiot drivers attorney a deal where he pleads to violation of the basic speed law – essentially the same offense with same points. Idiot.

    To answer you question – to avoid people bitching and complaining, start stopping at 35 in a 30 in these conditions, start citing at 40, up it to careless driving at 45 or above…

  5. In Minnesnowta, unsafe is unlawful…and unlawful is illegal. So, if in the opinion of the LEO the driver is driving in an unsafe manner, the LEO can cite. (& should, too, IMHO) — one way to determine if it’s unsafe driving is to see if a person can stop safely While-Remaining -In- Control-Of – The- Vehicle. No sliding, no peeking a bumper out of your lane, etc. Another more subtle way is to see if you (as a driver) can stop in the space your headlights are illuminating. Never outrun your headlights. Thus, there are times when the second method [of determining safe driving] results in a slower speed than the first. Tough. Drive slow. A speeding ticket is still cheaper than a funeral – and way cheaper than the lawsuit a bereaved family should file against a careless driver. Go get ’em, MC!

  6. For me, I go 20mph. I’d say given the conditions you’ve outlined and shown us in the photo, cite over 20mph.

  7. I would drive about 25, stop at 31 and cite at 35. I live in the North Bay and see idiots driving way too fast and without HEADLIGHTS (!) too often. There’ve been times that the only reason I drove 35 on the highway was so I would survive being hit by one of the folks still going 70.