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Understanding the different types of speed limits

Speed limits may not seem that complicated on the surface. You see the limit posted on the sign and you adjust your speed to that level. However, did you know that there are different types of speed limits?

As a matter of fact, there are three different types. Not only that, but there is a hierarchy to them, meaning that some take precedence over the others. It is important to understand the differences among the three and know which takes precedence. Otherwise, you could incur a ticket if you obey the wrong speed limit.

Special conditions speed limits

Sometimes, a condition exists that can pose a danger to drivers, passengers and/or pedestrians. Special conditions speed limits may apply to these situations. They take precedence over all other speed limits.

The condition may be temporary, in which case, a changeable message sign may communicate a speed limit reduction of 10 miles per hour or more below the posted speed limit. Where the condition is permanent, such as a dangerous curve in the road or the presence of a school, the speed limit applies indefinitely.

Posted speed limits

The state government, as well as municipalities, have the right to post their own speed limits on roads that fall within their jurisdiction. Before a local or state government sets a speed limit on a new road, a traffic engineer investigates to determine a limit that is reasonable and safe.

You should try to observe the posted speed limit as closely as possible, traveling neither too fast nor too slow. Excessively slow speeds can create a hazard just as excessively fast speeds can.

Statutory speed limits

State legislatures establish statutory speed limits for various types of roads. In North Carolina, there is a statutory speed limit of 35 miles per hour in incorporated municipalities and 55 miles per hour in rural areas.

Municipalities have the authority to post their own speed limits, which may be different than the statutory speed limits. A posted speed limit takes precedence over a statutory speed limit. However, where there is no posted speed limit, the appropriate statutory speed limit for the type of road applies and is enforceable.