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How Are Speed Limits Set? 

If you have never received a speeding ticket, you are probably young, a perfect driver, or a very lucky driver. After all, according to statistics, more than 40 million people receive speeding tickets every year. That represents the issuance of more than 100,000 speeding tickets each day across the United States. Moreover, most drivers admit that they speed multiple times every year, whether they received a ticket or not.

Good drivers constantly monitor their speed and keep an eye out for speed limit signs. We have learned through experience that speed limits can change often and drastically, depending on the kind of road, population density, and many other factors. Failure to keep up with these speed limit changes can result in costly tickets, insurance premium increases, and deadly accidents. But who sets these speed limits? That brings us to the topic of this blog post – how speed limits are set.

The Importance of Speed Limits

It should come as no surprise that controlling the speed of motor vehicles can go a long way in promoting safety on our roads. During the first year of the pandemic, traffic fatalities increased to a level not seen since 2007. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that the number of deaths in crashes related to speeding increased 17 percent year over year. NHTSA further reports that over the course of approximately 20 years, about one-third of traffic fatalities involved speeding. Thus, controlling speed on our roadways is extremely important.

Types of Speed Limits

Below we will outline the types of speed limits referenced by NHTSA.

  1. Statutory Speed Limits – through its state legislature, each state sets the speed limits for certain types of roads. Examples of road types could include a state rural road or an interstate. For example, the legislature could decide that the speed limit will be 70 miles per hour on all interstates. These speed limits apply even if a sign is not posted.
  2. Posted Speed Limits – these are the typical speed limits posted on signs beside the road. They are sometimes referred to as regulatory speed limits. These speed limits are often set by city or county governments and may or may not be the same as a statutory speed limit. Engineering studies determine if the speed needs to be adjusted in certain areas. The posted speed limit prevails if it differs from the statutory speed limit. 
  3. Special Condition Speed Limits – these are speed limits that can vary based on time and circumstances. Examples cited by NHTSA include school zones and work zones. For example, the school zone speed limit is slower at certain times of day when children are coming from or going to school. 

Recent Developments in Oregon

In Oregon, speed limits have been traditionally set by statute or designated as the result of an engineering and traffic study. In the past, once a speed limit was set, Oregon cities and counties needed permission to change it. However, the process could be slow because the Oregon Department of Transportation has a limited number of investigators. 

However, changes to the law that are effective in 2023 allow all of Oregon’s cities to obtain authority for setting their own speed limits. The same is true for Multnomah and Clackamas Counties. This will enable local governments to act quickly to lower speed limits in areas determined to be dangerous.

Call with Questions

Without a doubt, excessive speed is one of the most dangerous problems on our roadways. We appreciate the steps that the government takes to keep us safer. But, unfortunately, there will always be those people who drive unreasonably fast and endanger others. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries and other losses. 

The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield handle cases all over Oregon. We are here to answer your questions and explain your rights. And if you need representation, we are here for you. It is imperative to hold everyone accountable for their acts so that all Oregonians will be safer on the road. Reach out to us for a free consultation to get the answers you need.