Why blanket speed limits are wrong (continued)

Knowing something about how speed limits are set (in theory and in practice) I read stories about speed limits differently from most people. Usually that means digging through piles of emotion to find a few poorly-reported facts.

A story from Columbus, Minnesota was unusually informative.

We get the background facts: road posted 45, two pets hit by cars, complaints about speeders.

The Columbus city council decided to reduce the limit to 35 over objections of the mayor and city and state engineers. The justification was that speed limit reduction does not require an engineering study where driveways are less than 300 feet apart. (169.14(2)(8), 169.011(69a))

So already we know it’s a speed trap, a speed limit much lower than justified. Is it an illegal speed trap?

It might be.

In Minnesota cities can choose from certain statutory limits, like 30 in an urban district, or ask the state to set a speed limit based on an engineering study. The speed limit had previously been set by the state.

Can the city unilaterally change the state-determined speed limit? I don’t think so.

There is an oft-misunderstood maxim “the exception proves the rule.” That simply says when the law makes an exception, some contrary rule would apply in the absence of an exception.

The exception in this case is 169.14(5d), which allows cities to overrule DOT-set speed limits in urban districts. If the state raised the limit from 30, the city can drop it back to 30. This grant of permission would not be needed if DOT speed limits could be overruled anywhere.

If the DOT had never set a speed limit the city could have posted 35. Since the DOT did set a speed limit, the city is stuck with the state’s choice.

This is a good policy. Blanket speed limits are going to be wrong for some roads, and it’s better to have a speed limit set for the specific road.

Unless you like to write speeding tickets.

The opinions expressed in 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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