PDA

View Full Version : No speed limit in Montana state but watch your fuel consumption?


Pushkin
11-23-2002, 03:29 PM
I was reading an article by a guy from England who was writing about how he took a Ford Mustang for a series of road trips through America. He mentioned that in Montana state there are no speed limits but a police officer can pull you over for "imprudent use of fuel." Is this true? I thought America had a blanket 55mph speed limit outside of urban areas. If true how is "imprudent use of fuel," measured or detected?

BrandonR
11-23-2002, 03:38 PM
Here's some info I found: http://www.hwysafety.com/hwy_montana.htm

Seems they reinstated the speed limit in 1999...

Winsling
11-23-2002, 03:42 PM
Montana experimented with no posted speed limits for awhile. I belive that's been repealed. I never heard of "imprudent use of fuuel", but police could issue you a speeding ticket if they felt you were driving at an imprudent speed. That's really no different from other states; if you're doing 50 down the highway in a blizard, you can still be pulled over.

The US doesn't have a blanket speed limit like you're describing. There are seperate speed limits for interstates and highways, which vary by state.

Montana's speed limits: http://www.mdt.state.mt.us/speed_limit/

Hal

tomndebb
11-23-2002, 03:45 PM
I've never heard of "fuel" being involved. It was either a joke or the guy was seriously confused.

Ages ago, Montana's basic speed law was that a person could not exceed a "prudent" speed for the road conditions as judged by a police officer. (The basic speed law applies to any highway outside a city that does not have a specific limit posted.)

When the U.S. imposed 55 mph for any state that wanted Federal funds for road construction, Montana complied with that order, just as everyone else did.

When Congress finally junked the mandatory 55, Montana's legislature repealed the 55 limit--leaving their original "prudent" law on the books. Since that time, Montana has gone through and put up speed limits on every road that I travelled last August and September. They tend to be higher than many other states: 75 mph for I-90 and 65 mph for the two-lane U.S 2, with lower speeds in specifically hilly/curvy conditions, but they do have posted limits.

I have no idea where he came up with "imprudent use of fuel" unless he confused the older "prudent" speed limit with the fuel-prompted 55 mph limit.

Pushkin
11-23-2002, 03:45 PM
Brandon R the link's interesting, the way that no posted speed limits actually decreased the road fatalities.

Johnny L.A.
11-23-2002, 03:47 PM
Where I drive in L.A. the posted speed limit is 65mph. IIRC, Interstate 5 (a long, straight, boring road through California's central valley) is posted at 70. I think I-5 is posted at 55mph through Oregon, and I don't remember what the limit is in Washington. (I tend to drive at a speed that is comfortable to me, and keep an eye out for the highway patrol when necessary.) So there are some U.S. roads that are posted 70.

DougC
11-23-2002, 04:04 PM
- - - This was a few years back, but somebody once told me that the penalty for exceeding the posted speed limit in Montana was a $5 fine (five dollars), payable at the time of ticketing. The gist of the law was that you really could go any speed on the open roads, as long as you weren't endangering anyone else.
~

Badtz Maru
11-23-2002, 04:17 PM
My borther lived in Montana back then, and he explained to me the 'fuel' angle.

They could pull you over for the fuel thing even if they didn't necessarily think you were driving at an unsafe speed, just a suggestion to slow down, kinda. There was a $5 fine for those kinds of stops, which did not go on your driving record as it wasn't really a moving violation, just wasting fuel. You could buy a book of 10 $5 coupons you could give the police officer when they pulled you over. You had to be going over the speed limit to get pulled over for wasting fuel, so driving 70 on an interstate in a blizzard wouldn't count.

They reserved the right to pull you over for driving an unsafe speed for more extreme cases, not the guy driving 90 down a long straight highway without another car in sight, i.e. someone weaving through traffic at high speed, or driving fast in unsafe conditions, etc. The fine was higher, and it went on your driving record.

Technically Montana still followed the requirement of having a speed limit low enough to get federal highway funding by technically being able to fine people for driving over it, though it was a very small fine.

I heard (and I'm not sure if this is true) that Montana ended up going back to more normal speed limit laws because a race car driver was given a ticket for driving at an unsafe speed when he was going down the highway at something ridiculous, like 140 or so (can't remember the details). He fought it in court and spent thousands of dollars appealing on the grounds that it was not an unsafe speed for him because he was a race car driver (which seems like a stupid argument when you see how common car crashes are in car races). Anyway, it was such a huge public pain in the ass that the legislators decided to make a flat speed limit so people like him wouldn't be able to appeal it.

Neenah
11-23-2002, 04:22 PM
I've never heard of "imprudent use of fuel", but the speed limit here varies according to daylight hours and location. The speed limit on the interstate is 75, with lower limits for trucks. On state highways, the maximum daytime limit is 70, 65 at night, and trucks have a max limit of 65, 55 at night.

Before these limits were enacted, we had "reasonable and prudent", which meant that you were expected to use a little judgement. Instead of a speeding ticket, you got one for reckless driving or something similar.

mangeorge
11-23-2002, 04:40 PM
Does "prudent speed" take the type and condition of car into consideration?
Peace,
mangeorge

Pushkin
11-23-2002, 05:33 PM
Urban legend has it that the British Government was prompted to put the 70mph speed limit on British motorways, which were once unrestricted, when some wag in an AC Cobra tore down the motorway at a 3 figure speed.

abby
11-23-2002, 09:13 PM
Ya know, for someone from Australia, this conversation is exceedingly weird. Speeding is touted at the absolute number one reason for deaths on the road, here, and speed limits are enforced vigorously. People who speed are generally frowned upon - it's known to be dangerous, risking your own life and those of others, and is Just Dumb.

On dual carraige-way roads (I guess similar to what you Merkins'd call Interstates), the limit here is 110km/h. The police seem to allow a little fudging (I have heard 3km/h for the accuracy of your speedo, and 3km/h for the accuracy of their metering gear, so I guess that means you can go 116, and be safe :), but the fines here are high - 45km/h over the limit, and it's on-the-spot loss of license for 12 months. Anything less comes with large fines ($400, now, I think), and loss of "points" (drivers get 12 points when they get their license, and loose them for infringements like speeding, running reds, etc. Loose all yer points, loose yer license).

Another thing, on holiday long weekends, they have "double demerit points", which means you loose twice as many points for offenses. Harsh but fair. Since these aggressive laws have been introduced, there are many less deaths (and presumably accidents?) from speeding.

Anyway. It's weird, this talk of "no speed limits" - I hear that's the case on German autobahns, as well? Sounds like it'd be fun, if a little scary.

abby

whistlepig
11-23-2002, 10:06 PM
OK, as a Montanan since 1967, here it is:

Once upon a time, Montana had a "reasonable and prudent" limit. That meant that you could drive as fast as the road and traffic conditions would allow.

In the seventies, Jimmy Carter instituted the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. Jimmy never realized that driving from one side of Montana to the other is about 700 miles. The Montana legislature was forced to comply with the 55 mph speed limit, but set up the fine so that if you were driving faster than xx mph over the 55 mph speed limit, you were fined for "waste of a conservation resource".

So Montana had a 55 mph speed limit on the highway, but we drove 75-80 mph. Montana lost money on the $5 tickets, but you only got one if you were doing 80+ mph or being stupid. But it was $5 and no points off your drivers license, because you were only "wasting a conservation resource."

Then, after the 55 mph was repealed, we went to 75 mph on the highway. Worked well. You could always drive 10 miles over the speed limit (depending on traffic and road conditions) without worrying about getting a ticket for speeding.

In the late '90's, we repealed any highway speed limits and went with "reasonable and prudent for the traffic conditions". That pretty much sucked. I'd be doing 80 on the interstate, come up on somebody driving 55 in the right lane and have somebdoy coming up behind me doing 100 mph. The Montanan's knew how to drive it, but no one else did. Our traffic deaths went way up from people driving too fast, a classic case was a wreck where they were doing 120 mph in a Chevy S10.

So now the rules are:

75 mph on the four lane interstate.
70 mph on two lanes highlways, 65 mph at night. On the two lane, you can go 10 mph over the speed limit to pass.

*I* with my Montana license plates, Dodge pickup and dog in the back can drive 5-10 mph over the speed limit and pass highway patrol cars. Someone with out-of-state plates can't. It's the way it is.

Whistlepig

Who has driven 3000 miles in Montana this month.

p.s. You can still have an open container of alcohol in your car on all highways in Montana and not get a fine.

F. U. Shakespeare
11-24-2002, 12:48 AM
Originally posted by whistlepig
OK, as a Montanan since 1967, here it is:

Once upon a time, Montana had a "reasonable and prudent" limit. That meant that you could drive as fast as the road and traffic conditions would allow.

In the seventies, Jimmy Carter instituted the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. Jimmy never realized that driving from one side of Montana to the other is about 700 miles.

It was President Nixon who instituted the 'double-nickel' speed limit, in response to the energy crisis of the early 1970s.

dtilque
11-24-2002, 02:52 AM
Originally posted by Johnny L.A.
Where I drive in L.A. the posted speed limit is 65mph. IIRC, Interstate 5 (a long, straight, boring road through California's central valley) is posted at 70. I think I-5 is posted at 55mph through Oregon, and I don't remember what the limit is in Washington.
The speed limit on freeways in Oregon is 65 for cars and 55 for trucks. Except within the Portland metro area, where it's still 55 for both.

In Washington, I think the limit is 70 on freeways, but I don't drive there that much, so I could be wrong.

Charlie Tan
11-24-2002, 06:45 AM
[slight hijack]
No, the Autobahn in Germany doesn't have a speed limit. Sort of.
But closer to bigger cities, there will be a speed limit. It can be 90 km/h (55mph) or 110 or 130. Also, Germany has (WAG) 40 million cars on an area about the size of Montana, so the Autobahn is almost always very congested, meaning that speed never is very high.
[/slight hijack]

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.