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Is it legal to drive 10 to 15 mph below the posted speed limit?

Brian Freskos

A car passes the 45 mph speed limit sign on West Salisbury Street in Wrightsville Beach.

A lot depends on the type of roadway.

Posted on most highways and interstates is a minimum speed of travel that motorists, strictly speaking, have to abide by. But whether that law is frequently broken or if police enforce it is another question entirely.

In 2009, no one in Brunswick, New Hanover or Pender counties was charged with driving below the posted minimum speed, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, which compiles data on charges and convictions for counties across the state.

Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas, said driving 10 or 15 mph below the posted speed limit is legal unless otherwise noted. If a motorist’s sluggish speed is disrupting traffic, however, an officer may cite the driver for impeding traffic flow.

A motorist also can be cited for impeding traffic if he or she is traveling at the speed limit but traffic is flowing much faster, Crosby said.

And that is a violation more commonly enforced. In 2009, 29 drivers in New Hanover County were cited for impeding traffic by slow speed. Four were charged for the same violation in Brunswick County last year and two were charged in Pender County, according to the administrative office.

“It’s a judgment of the officer,” Crosby said about writing tickets for impeding traffic. “As an organization, we always advocate obeying the speed limit. But you have to be aware of those around you.”

Related links:

Why is the speed limit on U.S. 421 55 mph? Why can’t it be faster in certain areas?

Why does the speed limit on the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway change to 50 mph as it passes the exit for Wilmington International Airport?

Why are there 3 speed limits on U.S. 74/76 when traveling between Whiteville and Wilmington?

What is the speed limit on U.S. 17/74/76 in Leland?

How does the city of Wilmington determine speed limits for different neighborhoods?

Why can police cars go faster than the speed limit when they are not using their lights and sirens?

Who do I contact about getting the speed limit on River Road reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph?

Why are mopeds, which are limited by N.C. DMV to 30 mph, allowed on roads that carry higher speed limits?

User-contributed question by:
Aaron Richardson

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6 Responses to “ Is it legal to drive 10 to 15 mph below the posted speed limit?”

  1. On November 20, 2010 at 9:41 am David wrote:

    Are you sure about that part about getting a ticket if your going the speed limit if everybody else is speeding? That seems like a Catch-22 where you could get a ticket no matter what you do.

  2. On November 24, 2010 at 7:49 am s crips wrote:

    I am a bit confused you said the minimum limit is posted . I thought the speed limit signs posted the max speed allowed and that people get speeding tickets for exceeding 5 mph over the limit . I understand the flow of traffic concept and use it but I always try to stay in the middle of a line to avoid a ticket. Please clarify for me.

  3. On November 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm Brian Freskos wrote:

    Both a minimum and maximum speed of travel (speed limit) are often posted on interstates and highways. Strictly speaking, motorists are required to travel between the minimum and maximum speed. But anyone whose been in an automobile knows that is not always the case.
    Exceeding the speed limit, even if it’s by 1 mph, is technically illegal and an officer could ticket a motorist for it. However, most officers we spoke with in the article below said they give drivers some leeway, but precisely how much is left up to the discretion of the officer. Many we spoke with said they won’t pull someone over unless they’re traveling at least 15 mph above the speed limit; other officers said they might give drivers a 5 mph buffer before ticketing them.
    Click here for more info: http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20100926/ARTICLES/100929720

    To answer the first question, because of the way the statute reads, a motorist can technically be ticketed for impeding traffic even if he or she is traveling the speed limit, according to the spokesman for AAA Carolinas.

  4. On November 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm Steve wrote:

    I got a ticket for going 58mph in a 55mph zone by our wonderful Highway Patrol. Not only did I get the ticket, but my insurance gave me points against my license because our wonderful state requires any speeding violations to count against you. That ticket cost me over 100.00 dollars. What a wonderful place to live.

  5. On April 26, 2017 at 3:19 am Jack Mudge wrote:

    I believe the statement about being ticketed for impeding traffic *above* the speed limit is incorrect. A more definitive answer, at least for Washington State, is found here: http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/traffic/article139534583.html which cites the relevant laws and gets an opinion from an officer.

    The other issue with that idea is that there is a concept of “slow lane” and “passing lane”, which, while most people seem to ignore it altogether, is pretty consistent across states — if you need to move more slowly than prevailing traffic, you can do it in the right lane without a problem, as other lanes are available for passing. (Though on one-lane roads a turnout may be required when available.)

    I’d hate for someone to exceed the speed limit thinking they might get a ticket if they don’t from reading the article…

  6. On July 24, 2017 at 2:41 pm Ronald Danials wrote:

    Amazing article, thank you so much

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