55 MPH "conditions permitting"

In NJ some speed limit signs add the line “conditions permitting” to the speed limit sign. Now in the middle of a blizzard the meaning for that condition is pretty obvious, but I would like to know can this be used as a vaild reason to excede the speed limit. Like if the traffic was moving at 75mph and it would be unsafe to travel below the posted speed limit?

You can go up to 55 if conditions permit. Going faster is not part of the deal.

That said, it is exceedingly unlikely that you will be ticketed if you’re doing 70 and everyone else is passing you doing 75.

What is being stated is “Speed Limit 55 MPH-Conditions Permitting” e.g. clear weather, good visibility, and so on. The defense for speeding of “everyone was else was doing it” is dubious, at best.


There is a sign on some roads in Australia (remote places usually) that is a black circle with a bar through it. And I suspect it’s an international sign too. It’s legal meaning is “the limit here is the maximum one of 110kmh, but you may exceed this limit if conditions permit”.

As for conditions such as fog or ice requiring slower driving, i’m pretty sure in most any jurisdiction anywhere, the cops can throw the book at you for “driving at a speed too great for conditions” (or equivalent wording). They can probably do this anyway, without the need for a special sign.

I can’t help thinking that NJ sign means you can go faster if it is safe to do so.

We don’t have anything like that in the U.S. except in Montana. The speed limit is the speed limit and if the police feel like busting you for 56 mph in a 55 mph zone they can.

Any speed limit implies “Do not exceed the speed posted; you may drive up to it if road conditions permit doing so safely.” A charge of “driving too fast for conditions” is included in the highway laws in virtually every state, to cover the person who decides to drive 55 in the middle of an ice storm, and has an accident in consequence.

IANAL, but my sister is. She says that if traffic is moving 70 in a 55 zone you can succesfully argue that you are driving legally. There is a term for it (says she), but I don’t recall what it is.
In her earlier practice (she’s big time now) she tells me she used this defense often.

It’s a variant on the equal protection provision of the 14th Amendment: you are entitled to equal treatment under law as anyone else. So unless the police are ticketing everyone traveling at a speed over the limit, to ticket one or a few of them violates their right to equal protection by the laws.

Selective enforcement?

I don’t practice in this area, but I bet that argument only works because the courts are overburdened and don’t want to dick around with a whole trial for a speeding ticket. Selective enforcement doesn’t hold wateer if you’re going faster than the flow of traffic, because you’re not similarly situated, and even if you’re going along with the flow of traffic, you can’t seriously argue it because courts recognize that the state has limited resources and cannot possibly prosecute everyone that speeds. Now, the one place where it might be legit is if you’re out of state and you can show the cops pulled you over while letting other speeders with native license plates go by.

Anyway, I agree with the consensus and in the States, speed limit signs state the limit, in ideal conditions. If you try to go the limit in severe weather or other porr driving conditions, you can be liable for violating the speed limit even though you never went higher than what’s on the sign. You are technically never allowed to exceed the limit, but in practice most U.S. highways run about 10-15 miles above the posted limits, and in general you’re not going to get pulled over for doing that as long as it’s consistent with the flow of traffic, unless the cop feels that he needs to pull you over for some other reason.


If you’re thinking of the “Reasonable & prudent” speed in Montana, that was replaced in May of 1999 with a posted 75 mph limit. :frowning: Too bad! I was out there in July '96. It was fantastic! I drove past a highway patrol car (the only one we saw in that entire huge state) going 85+ mph. Trooper didn’t even blink an eye! R&P was even better than the posted limit of 80 Kansas had on it’s turnpike prior to the national 55 mph speed limit in the 70’s.

For 20+ years I’ve been in a court room at least 2 full days a month. I’ve never heard of those arguements being successful in the least. In fact, I’ve never even heard a lawyer bring up those arguements in court. I’ve heard people who were defending themselves give the “everyone else was speeding too” defense.
Doesn’t work.