Written by Gregory Monte.
In Pennsylvania, according to Title 75, Section 3362, there are four default speed limits and one special case:
- “(1) 35 miles per hour in any urban district”
- “(1.1) 65 miles per hour or 70 miles per hour for all vehicles on freeways [as posted]”
- “(1.2) 25 miles per hour in a residence district [there are some additional details]”
- “(2) 55 miles per hour in other locations.”
- The special case (3) is spelled out in Section 3363 and it allows local municipalities to set limits under certain circumstances.
The Technicality Explained – Its All About the Signs
The key to the technicality can be found in subsection (b) of 3362:
- “(1) No maximum speed limit established under subsection (a)(1), (1.2) or (3) shall be effective unless posted on fixed or variable official traffic-control devices erected in accordance with regulations adopted by the department which regulations shall require posting at the beginning and end of each speed zone and at intervals not greater than one-half mile. “
- (2) No maximum speed limit established under subsection (a)(1.1) shall be effective unless posted on fixed or variable official traffic-control devices erected after each interchange on the portion of highway on which the speed limit is in effect and wherever else the department shall determine.
This couldn’t be more straightforward. In 35, 25, 55 and the “special case” miles per hour speed zones, signs have to be posted at least every half-mile otherwise the speed limits are not effective – case closed, you win. If you think that this is a long shot, I suggest you check out one of your local roads and see if there are signs every half-mile. I have checked several back roads near me and this regulation is definitely not complied with.
As for freeways, signs apparently don’t have to be placed every half-mile, but they must at least be placed after entrance ramps.
There are some additional regulations related to speed limit signs in PA Chapter 212, Section 108 which I will discuss in my next blog post, but the basic rules are established by the sections I quoted above.
What the Courts Say
I usually like to include a court case related to the blog topic every time I suggest an interpretation of the law – just to be sure that I am reading it correctly. So, I found a case from back in 2012 – Rahman v. Falls Township. This is actually a very sad case, because a little girl was killed when she ran into the road right in front of a passing car. But the reason I bring it up is because the police officer who arrived at the scene was not able to give the individual in the car a speeding ticket:
“There was no sign on that 1,600-foot-long stretch of road posting the speed limit of 35 miles per hour (mph); there was a sign 250 feet beyond the accident point … Sergeant Taylor did not charge Ms. Hitner with speeding, he said, because he believed that in the absence of a sign, the lawful speed limit defaulted to 55 mph.”
While this case can’t necessarily be quoted in court to contest a speeding ticket based on failure to comply with sign regulations, it does support my contention that the technicality I discuss here is certainly worth looking into. The quote from this case, along with the plain reading of the law I quoted earlier, leads me to suggest that you keep this “speed sign technicality” in your “back pocket,” so to speak, just in case you find yourself with a ticket in Pennsylvania.