When do speed limits take effect?

On my commute, I have to pass through a toll booth, and the speed limit drops from 55 to 25 about half a mile before the toll plaza. There is a sign that warns of the reduced limit ahead. But at what point is the limit 25? Is it at the sign? As soon as you can see the sign? Somewhere else?

Word has it the state police like to pounce on speeders thereabouts, and I don’t need to be pulled over.

The speed limit takes effect at the exact point the sign is located. Go past that 25 sign at 27 mph and you’re fair game for a speeding ticket.

Should have clarified that to say that the limit takes effect at the point a speed limit sign is posted. The “25 zone ahead” sign is just a courtesy heads-up warning so people don’t wind up locking their brakes zipping along at 55, then seeing the 25 sign, and the state trooper just beyond.

OK, thanks - so as long as I slow way down before I cross that line, I should be safe. Unless the bozo behind me doesn’t slow…

Also, I visited seveal websites about traffic laws on the net last Saturday, and I read that if you see a higher speed limit posted ahead (say, 55 mph), you don’t have to wait until you pass the sign before you can reach that speed. The higher speed is allowed as soon as you can reasonably read the sign. However, if the lower speed limit is only for a small stretch of road, and is posted close to the higher speed (i.e. 30 mph sign right in front of 55 mph sign), you are obligated to wait until you are past the sign to travel at the higher speed.

I’d love to see a cite for that. It doesn’t make much sense to base a speed limit on where you can “reasonable read the sign”. That would make the speed zones different for people with different eyesight.

By strict definition, the speed zones are defined by the plane of the speed limit sign - whether increased or decreased speed.

Of course, a reasonable cop (I believe that I am one such) never writes tickets in the “transition zone” from one speed zone to another. Unless, of course, your speed is in excess of the posted limit in either zone.

IANALEO but Thalion has it. When the speed limit drops, you must be at or below the posted speed (excepting the margin afforded by the means of speed ascertation-variable by state) when passing the lower posting. When the speed increases, you can’t tromp on it until you’ve passed the higher limit posting.

Then the cop that busted me was unreasonable. :slight_smile: I was between two signs that were very close together (I’m terrible at estimating distance, but I’d say it was less than 1/4 mile and you can see the 55 sign as you pass the 35 sign). I had passed the 35 sign and was accelerating to 55 (this was heading out of a tiny, tiny burg, just past a farm that spans the road) and he pulled me over. He said the limit was not in effect until you hit the sign. Yet in the other direction (there are signs at the same points facing the other way), presumably you are OK to be DEcelerating from 55 to 35 between the signs.

I paid the ticket because there have been plenty of other times when I SHOULD have been busted but wasn’t.

He was definitely right, as the stated exception in my post above indicated. However, based on the fact that I couldn’t find a better cite than this one (scroll down about 5 paragrahs to the second bulleted item), I guess I’ll have to retract the remainder of my post. I couldn’t find anything more authoritative online about speed limit boundaries, so I guess common sense should prevail, and the signs themselves mark the limits, as I’d always assumed before.

Let me guess…

The above post was in response to Scarlett67’s story of getting pulled over in a tiny town.

Accidently hit submit… :smack:

Rosendale is a notorious little town right on the only straight shot from Madison to the Fox Valley/Appleton/Green Bay area. They derive a ridiculous amount of revenue from speeding citations, and have placed signs to denote the limit change that are, well, dubiously sited at best. However, the specifically constructed blacktop cop car hiding places are extremely well situated, to avoid detection by unwary travelers.

I even have a t-shirt from there, with the name of the town, a picture of a cop car and the slogan “Just the ticket!” They’re $5 at the gas station with a fill-up.

Has anyone ever challenged their citations on the basis of failure to sign the roadway in accord with MUTCD? (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) It’s a publication of the Federal Highway Administration.

Example: If you’re stopped at a red light, at the stop line, and a sign prohibiting a right turn on red in a manner proscribed in MUTCD isn’t posted, a citation would be difficult to uphold.

I’m glad this came up because I was going to ask the same type of question. Where I live I get off the highway, a 55 zone, then onto a 6 lane road. The new road has the first speed limit sign from the highway just before the first light and just after the merge from the highway. There the limit is 40. I would guess that the rest of the road before the merge is also 40, but what speed am I supposed to be going after coming off the highway? There are no signs on the exit so I could be doing 55 until I see the first sign. However the cops just love to sit there and bust people and since I know that I’m always slowing down, but if I did get busted could I fight it?

Oh, I know all about Rosendale and drive like a grandma when I go through there. (Although I usually go through Rosendale in the east-west direction, whereas you go through from south to north.) Never saw the T-shirts at the gas station, though. That’s great!

But no, I got busted outside Spring Lake, which is even smaller than Rosendale. It’s just west of Redgranite.

A year or so ago, a woman who clerked for our state’s supreme court advanced this argument while contesting a ticket, and somehow or other managed to get them to buy it. God only knows how.

I worked as a Traffic Engineer for 13 years and I feel there is a little to be added here. The reference to the MUTCD is a perfect one. That is the bible for the industry. Also, in most counties and cities the speed is posted based on studies conducted and considering many factors. For example: recovery areas (width of the shoulder to pull off in an emergency), sidewalks or the lack of and pedestrian traffic, number, spacing and types of driveways and speed studies (those little double rubber hoses you sometimes see across a single lane) to name a few.
The statement about the posting in different directions is due to the fact that typically each direction is looked at seperatly due to different conditions. These include: are you coming into town or leaving, coming out of the sharp turn or approaching it, similar to passing zones determinations.
As far as where it begins it is as someone stated earlier. The last sign you encountered is in effect until your vehicle breaks the plane of the sign. The ablility to see the next sign ahead has no effect on the speed where you are.
We always tried to work with local law enforcement on creating speed limits. Unfortunately, occasionally we had differing agendas. Ours was for the safe and efficient passage of traffic at the speed most able to achieve both. Some small cities prefered to discourage traffic altogether. Or to create speed traps, as described here earlier. One small town wanted snail speeds and long red times at signals on the main street to encourage window shopping in the stores fronting the road.
I hope this has been helpful. Maintain the last posted speed until you actually cross the next posting… or else.

As a small aside FYI. It is off topic a bit but thought you might like to know that when you pull up to a traffic signal, your vehicle is detected not by weight of the car but by magnetic sensors in the pavement that work much like the treasure finders you sometimes see people using loolking for coins and such. The large square or retangular cuts in the pavement ( on the approach in thru-lanes and up at the stop bar in turn-lanes) detect the metal in your car and signal the controller to give you a place in the timing cycle. Some of these loop detectors, as they are known, are also used to count cars, monitor speed and adjust the signal systems timing.
Just thought you might like to know.

Thanks for the education! I often wondered what exactly traffic engineers did.

If you’ll pardon a tangential hijack: what is the “range” of a No Parking sign? I live near a high school, so my street is designated for zoned parking only. All up and down the street, spaced every hundred feet or so, are signs saying “zoned parking only 8 AM to 6 PM.” Except for the one sign in front of MY house, which specifies 6 AM to 6 PM. Where does the 6 AM zone begin and end under those circumstances?

Are these two spots anywhere near Ripon? Because in my only trip to/through Wisconsin, that’s where I got a ticket…not only the most expensive one I ever got, but the only time I was ever asked to post bail, on top of it! The cop was on the verge of driving me to an ATM, until I remembered that AAA posts bail for members…as it is, I still had to go to the police station for him to copy my AAA card and I had to leave the original with him.

And I was on my way to Appleton, though I was coming from Wisconsin Dells rather than from Madison.