Ignore this sign

Ignore every speed limit sign in Massachusetts.

The governor just signed a bill repealing state oversight over municipal speed limits. Cities were sick of having the rules get in the way of speed traps.

If you were pretending speed limit signs mean anything, stop.

Under old law, municipal speed limits were supposed to be posted after an engineering study by MassDOT had determined the limit was appropriate and consistent with federal highway aid rules. The rules were poorly enforced, but were at least a brake on municipal abuses. Cities weren’t about to follow the rules on their own.

Under new law, cities can post 20 and 25 mph limits essentially anywhere they like. They don’t need an engineering study. They don’t need any reason. They can have the mayor’s kid scribble in crayon on a map and that’s where the speed limit is reduced.

Black and white speed limit signs are among the rules cities are now exempt from. If the limit is 25 mph it doesn’t need to be posted at all. If it’s 20 mph that kid with a crayon can make up a sign. If you care about obeying the speed limit it’s your responsibility to ask the City Clerk or MassDOT for a speed limit update every time you go for a drive.

When police set up their improved speed traps they’ll have a couple more changes working in their favor.

First, safety is no longer an excuse for speeding. A few magistrates have been following the law and letting drivers off if they are driving safely but over the limit. Magistrates are not allowed to do that with these new speed trap limits.

Second, the new law eliminates the requirement for police to get your signature on a ticket and file a paper copy. For the most part this just lets them write tickets faster, but it also increases the opportunity for fraud. Until now your missing signature was evidence that you didn’t get a copy of the ticket, as required by law.

Whatever link there was between speed limits and safety is broken. And with everybody speeding everywhere, there’s no way to know which limits police take seriously.

That’s why I say ignore every speed limit sign in Massachusetts. The average driver is better than the average politician when it comes to picking a safe speed, and limits are picked by (at best) average politicians.

Like I said, magistrates don’t have to rule in your favor just because the speed limit is stupid. You should consider three tools.

  1. If you spend any time in light traffic you’ll want a radar detector. (Normal police radar doesn’t work in heavy traffic.)
  2. If you do much highway driving, invest in a laser jammer. The ones with laser diodes work better than the cheaper models with LEDs.
  3. If any of your friends are electrical engineers, have one build you a radar jammer. It’s pretty easy, because most police radar is pretty simple.
    Technically radar jammers violate the law, even “passive” jammers without transmitters. But so does driving 21 in a 20 zone. Massachusetts has decided FHWA speed limit standards don’t matter, so why shouldn’t you decide FCC interference standards don’t matter?

When you do get caught and try to park for your court appearance, you’ll discover the new law also allows parking meter rates to be set for maximum profit. Old law required parking revenue to be spent only on parking-related expenses, so there wasn’t any point in gouging drivers. Now it’s just revenue.

H.4565 is titled “An Act modernizing municipal finance and government”. Modernizing must be a euphemism.

There’s been a lot written the past few years about how police became the enemies of the people. Observer had a good article recently explaining how the traffic stop made that happen.

Massachusetts lawmakers picked sides in that war.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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One Response to “Ignore this sign”

  1. Dave says:

    I’d add #4 which is use something like Waze but given how the law is written I wouldn’t be surprised if doing that counts as “texting” and is illegal.