Opinion Columns & Blogs

‘Reasonable and prudent’ driving can have multiple meanings

Bowman Road in North Macon has a speed limit of 35 mph. I know this because when we moved into our neighborhood six years ago I got pulled over for going 45 mph. I presumed that was the speed limit. There were no speed limit signs. The officer just gave me a warning.

Since then, I have become increasingly aware of the lack of speed limit signs in the area. State law requires that a person drive in a “reasonable and prudent” manner in the absence of signs. The maximum speed in any residential neighborhood can be no more than 30 mph. The maximum speed on any unpaved country road is 35 mph. The maximum speed on the interstate is 70 mph, though it is a ludicrous and stupid thing that there is a speed limit on Interstate16. That should be our autobahn.

With the exception of one speed limit sign on Bowman Road that is attached to the backside of diamond shaped caution sign, there is no notice of the speed limit. That road, freshly re-paved, intuitively seems like it would be 45 mph. In fact, prior to writing this column, I drove the road precisely at 35 mph. In addition to the traffic backup I caused, it was impossible to go below 45 mph down all the hills without riding my brakes.

Turning right at the four way stop at Bowman and Wesleyan there is no speed limit sign until approaching Northside Drive. Turn left onto Forest Hill Road and there is no speed limit sign anywhere on that road until crossing Northside Drive. Hall Road has one 45 mph sign when turning from Forest Hill onto Hall Road headed toward Riverside Drive.

Riverside Drive is 50 mph in the area between the interstate and the restaurants by Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard. A deputy sheriff is usually parked out there by the Department of Transportation building most nights waiting for the people going over 60 mph, which happens often. But in the past few weeks I have also seen deputy on Forest Hill Road where there are no speed limit signs.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but the lack of signs and a state law that advises “reasonable and prudent speeds” in the absence of such signs makes the whole thing a bit nebulous. Luckily for Georgia drivers, state law prohibits the use of speed detection devices as evidence if a driver is going above the speed limit, but not more than 10 miles per hour more. If you are in a 35 mph zone or less, however, that law does not apply.

There are very few requirements on sign placement in the Georgia Code. Most of those requirements are for restrictions to avoid counties and cities running speed traps for revenue purposes. For example, according to the Georgia Code, “Not more than six alterations … shall be made per mile along a street or highway, except in the case of reduced limits at intersections. The difference between adjacent limits shall not be more than 10 miles per hour, except for reductions for school speed zones, which may be not more than 20 miles per hour when a warning sign is placed 700 feet in advance of the point at which the speed reduction is required.”

In lieu of more signs, and I say this as someone who has only had one speeding ticket in 27 years of driving, I am glad our local deputies show so much grace to drivers. But more signs would be nice as traffic increases.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.