Posted speed limits throughout North Carolina (and the rest of the country) are based on state and local laws. The terrain may determine them as well. For example, sharp curves on mountain roads typically have low-speed limits.
Drivers need to abide by these speed limits. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always safe (or legal) merely to avoid exceeding them.
There’s built-in leeway in the law
Under North Carolina law, “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway or in a public vehicular area at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing.” Those conditions can include any number of things, such as:
- Reduced visibility caused by rain, snow, fog or other weather conditions
- Uneven or damaged roads
- Ice or standing water
- Falling rocks and debris
- Traffic conditions, such as a crash or something else blocking the road or slowing traffic
Law enforcement officers have the discretion to determine whether someone is driving “too fast for conditions” violations. However, there needs to be a reason for citing a driver who’s not exceeding the legal speed limit (whether it’s posted or not).
Typically, when you encounter bad weather, poor roads or other unusual conditions, the safest thing to do is to slow down enough that you have control of your vehicle and can stop quickly if you need to. Of course, you can’t slow down so much that you “impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law….” That can also be unsafe – and also get you a ticket.
If you’ve gotten a citation for driving too fast for conditions on the road, don’t dismiss it as less significant than any other speeding ticket. It can affect your driving record and your insurance rates. If you believe that you were wrongly cited, you have the right to dispute the ticket. Having legal guidance can improve your chances of success.