Unofficial Speed Limit Signs

I live in a small community and “official” speed limit signs are posted on all public roads as expected. I noticed, though, that on private roads, like the one that cuts through our local golf course, have unofficial speed limit signs. Instead of being white with black lettering, they are brown with white lettering. I obey these signs because there are golfers and golf carts around and I wouldn’t want to hit something and/or someone due to excessive speed. I assume that private property owners can set the speed limit of their roads to whatever they want, however, I wouldn’t expect the police to enforce those speed limits.

I’ve noticed there are now public roads with these same brown and white speed limit signs. Often there is an accompanying sign that says “Slow Down, Children at Play”. I realize parents want to slow down traffic for the safety of their kids, but are they allowed to set the speed limit of a public road? I can see them petitioning the local authority to reduce the speed limit in their neighborhood, but that’s a different thing to putting up speed limit signs. Am I legally obligated to obey these seemingly “unofficial” speed limit signs? It’s not like anyone is going to enforce them.

Maybe this will be informative:

Setting and Enforcing Speed Limits on Private Roads


There is no explicit statement in the law authorizing local traffic authorities to enforce the speed limits they set, but this appears to be a necessary implication of the authority to set limits. There is considerable Connecticut case law supporting the idea that the power to enforce is inherent in any legally granted authority to regulate to the extent that it is necessary to accomplish the purpose of the regulation. In Fahy v. Town of Trumbull , the court stated that a municipal corporation is a creature of law and its powers include “those expressly conferred by constitution, statutes, or charter, powers necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to powers expressly granted, and powers essential to the declared objects and purposes of municipality, and this enumeration of powers is exclusive.” (163 A.2d 574, 22 Conn.Supp. 105 (1960)). The court in this case also stated that the standard by which to determine whether a municipality possesses a certain power by implication is that it must be necessarily implied or incident to the powers granted, or indispensable to attainment and maintenance of its declared objects and purposes, and the test of implied power is the necessity of such power and not its convenience.

In Hartford v. American Arbitration Association et al. , the Connecticut Supreme Court observed that when a general power is given to a municipal officer, whatever is necessary for effective exercise of that power is, in the absence of express authority, conferred by implication. The court stated that it was “clear that this court has long been willing to imply to town officials those powers reasonably necessary to implement authority expressly delegated. It is also true, however, that such implied authority may be limited under the facts of a particular case.” (174 Conn. 479, 480 (1978)).

I think the question is more about private individuals/companies setting speed limits. If I decide cars go too fast on my street and I post a 15mph speed limit sign then what is the legal status? If I go 30 mph in a parking lot where the owners posted “Go Slow. 20 mph limit” can a cop give me a ticket for speeding?

Exactly. I can’t imagine the local police would write you a ticket for exceeding a speed limit set by a property owner on a public road. What happens on a private road is a different story.

I’m wondering if it is even legal to put such a sign on a public road. The police might not care about me posting a sign for my garage sale, but a speed limit sign is a whole 'nother story.

Good question. I suspect at some level it would be illegal.

It isn’t. Just like it isn’t legal to put up no parking signs, or paint your curb to discourage parking. If a sign isn’t an official speed limit sign, they have no enforcement impact. Just like those yellow speed signs around curves - they are recommendations, not changes in the speed limit.

Advisory speeds are not enforceable since their intent is to advise motorists of an appropriate speed, not regulate it.

PDF of Massachusetts signage

In my state, the PD can not enforce motor vehicle laws on private property unless certain conditions are met, including that property is at least 10 acres & the landowner asks, in writing, that the PD do enforce, & that that fact is posted at an entrance to the property. Therefore, I could potentially run a stop sign in the local shopping center, cutting off a cop, & he couldn’t do a thing about it.
I used to live in a townhouse community; we had private (‘not dedicated’) roads but no gate to prevent you from driving in; IOW, @Keeve, you couldn’t tell by looking at the road or google maps whether it was public or private, only by looking at township records. PD couldn’t enforce speeding or parking regs until the board went thru the formal process of requesting it.

MUTCD is the bible on signs & all other Traffic Control Devices. Pretty much every state has incorporated it; if it doesn’t meet their specs (including size, font, & coloring) it’s not a legal sign & therefore, you can’t be cited by the PD for not following it.

We have a mall that put those up, AND stop signs at the ends of some of the parking lanes. It galls me to obey those…so sometimes I don’t.

(But not with the wife in the car. She never met a rule she didn’t want everyone to obey. Y’know, to delay the breakdown of society…)


Hmmm, the mall’s signs look like they match official signs in size and color. Would THAT alone make it legal to give me a ticket?

Go back & read my first paragraph

That’s encouraging. Your other link scared me… since I love ignoring those signs. (I’m somehow rebelling against authority when I do it)

Does that include general laws like those against reckless driving?

I live near an elementary school. Since the school had limited parking, parents have to park on the street when there’s something going on at the school. A few of my neighbors have put up their own “no parking” signs to remind people to not block their driveways, and gates, and such. I take these signs not as something the police will actively enforce, but more of a request that people not block the gate, and perhaps a warning that the homeowner will call the police and have them towed if they do.

From what I’ve read, you’re right on with your post. We’d have chaos if any citizen could post a speed limit of his or her own choosing on any public street.

Citizens can petition their municipalities to do it. In Chicago, the city speed limit is 30 MPH but, on Beverly Blvd. between 99th and 95th streets, the posted speed limit is 25 MPH, and that was lobbied by the residents of the area.

Not really doubting your knowledge of the law, but ten acres really isn’t that large a footstep when it comes to malls and parking lots. Large business like malls often have smart lawyers who look out for their interests. Large businesses also know that at least one percent of their customers cause one hundred percent of the problems, so do what they can to curb the known problems. Filing the paperwork and posting signs that nobody will read would be a trivial thing.

Perhaps if you had said supermarket, but you probably shouldn’t use super walmart either.


That be my question too. Can i do donuts in the Wal Mart parking lot to my hearts content?

“Can i do donuts in the Wal Mart parking lot to my hearts content?” Probably not. Since it’s private property Walmart can ask you to leave their property. If you refuse, they can call the local police and they will ask you to leave or get charged with trespassing.

But would a cop driving by charge me with reckless driving?

Not in my city. “Driving” offences are on the public area between property lines, which includes the driving lanes, footpath, dividers, etc.

There are a heap of Public Disorder offences of one kind or another that they could and would charge you with, but not driving offences (unless the area is posted as controlled).

Of course, a simple reckless-driving offence is a summary offense here: just a fine and some points. If I disobeyed a police instruction to stop, I would definitely be eligible for a “failure to move on” ticket. If I didn’t stop as soon as I saw them walking up, I could be hit with “endangerment of an emergency worker”: arrest, court, and jail up to 2 years :frowning:

Not so fast, Melbourne!

I’m gonna assume that your username is a bit of a clue to the city to which you are referring. On which assumption, two comments.

First, it’s going to depend on the offence with which you are charged. While the Victorian offence of careless driving can only be committed on the highway, the offence of e.g. dangerous driving can be committed anywhere, so long as your driving is “dangerous to the public”. So that offence can, in principle, be committed anywhere where members of the public may be found - like a shopping centre car park. Who owns the property is irrelevant, as is the question of whether the public have access by right, or by permission. So, for any driving offence, you’re going to need to look at the legislation creating the offence to determine whether “on the highway” is an element of the offence.

Secondly, even for “on the highway” offences, “highway” is defined to include road, and “road” is defined to include “an area that is open to or used by the public and is developed for, or has as one of its main uses, the driving or riding of motor vehicles”. An open-air public carpark would seem to qualify, as would other areas dedicated to vehicle-driving activities that we might not normally think of as “roads”