The Vestigial Speeding Statute?

Written by Gregory Monte.

The Curious Case of the School Bus Speed Limit

Obviously, all states have speed limits.  But when you take a look at the Florida Motor Vehicle Code, there is an interesting subsection of Title XXIII 316.183 (Unlawful Speed) that appears somewhat redundant.

Here is how subsection 2 of the statute reads:

“On all streets or highways, the maximum speed limits for all vehicles must be 30 miles per hour in business or residence districts, and 55 miles per hour at any time at all other locations.”

Very straightforward, right?

But then you get to the next subsection and find the following short line:

“A school bus may not exceed the posted speed limits at any time.”

If the maximum speed limit “for all vehicles” is set in subsection 2, why is there any need to make a special statement about school busses in subsection 3?

Aren’t they also “vehicles?”

Does this mean that there is some possibility that a vehicle other than a school bus may exceed the posted speed limit in some circumstances?


A Vestigial Statute?

A possible explanation for this “head-scratcher” can be found by looking at the history of the legislation behind it.  Fortunately, I was able to find this in a Florida court case from 1996: Craig v. School Bd. of Broward County, 679 So. 2d 1219 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist.  All of the following quotes come from this decision.

Check out how specific (confusing?) subsection 3 was before it was amended in 1994:

“No school bus shall exceed the maximum speed limit of fifty-five (55) miles per hour on highways which form a part of the national interstate system or on any expressway or limited access four-lane road or when involved in intercounty travel on highways outside of municipalities with respect to extracurricular activities authorized by the school board, forty (40) miles per hour on highways outside of municipalities which are not a part of the national system of interstate highways, or twenty-five (25) miles per hour in any business or residential district.”

Here is how the equivalent statute read after 1994:

“(2) On all streets or highways, the maximum speed limits for all vehicles shall be 30 miles per hour in business or residence districts, and 55 miles per hour at any time at all other locations.  (3) No school bus shall exceed the maximum speed limits provided in subsection (2).”

But even this simplified version must have been somewhat confusing because it was amended yet again.  The current version (which I quoted earlier) merely says:

 “A school bus may not exceed the posted speed limits at any time.”

So, while I still think that the school bus restriction is redundant, tracing its legislative history leads to the possibility that it is somewhat akin to the human appendix – that vestigial organ with no real modern purpose.

Why else would this “exception” for school busses still remain in the motor vehicle code?

Maybe someone from Florida can offer a better explanation for why school busses are specifically not allowed to exceed the speed limit when you would think no vehicles would be permitted to do so.


My Free Resources

Applying the Traffic Ticket Defense Method to Challenge a Citation.

This is a seven-page, detailed explanation of my three-step method for challenging any traffic ticket. I use the “Driving at a Safe Speed” statute from Pennsylvania to illustrate this method, but it can be applied to any other statute that you might be cited for in the vehicle code.

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The Pennsylvania Stop Sign Defense Strategy in a Nutshell.

This is a one-page, eight-point summary of the strategy I discovered while researching ways of beating unfair stop sign tickets. It is specifically geared to Pennsylvania but can also be applied to most other states.

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My Son’s Opening Trial Statement at the Court of Common Pleas.

This is an elegant, one-page, powerfully concise expression of my defense strategy.

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The Brief – My Son’s Case Brief for the Court of Common Pleas

  • An eighteen-page argument for why an illegal stop sign is not enforceable.
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