I was out for a run the other day when I saw signs posted on a private pathway advising me not to exceed 7.5 miles per hour since children were playing. Sadly for my split times (but happily for the children at play), I was in no danger of exceeding this limit. Those signs reminded me, however, of a question that I’m asked from time to time: Are the speed limits posted on private subdivision streets enforceable?
(Author’s note: This post has been amended since its initial publication.)
My kids spend lots of time during the summer at our local YMCA, where this day of the week is known as Wacky Wednesday. On Humpday, many of us at the School of Government think of a retired colleague who greeted everyone in the building with a “Happy Wonderful Wednesday!” Whether you deem today’s blog post wacky or wonderful–or just plain weird—it addresses a question that continues to cross the minds of many in the state and which was posed to me a few weeks ago. Fortunately, there is a clear answer. (Spoiler alert: If you’ve visited the beach lately, you likely know what it is.)
Suppose a North Carolina city adopts an ordinance establishing a local speed limit of 25 miles per hour for all city streets that are not otherwise marked. Signs are posted on city streets reflecting the 25 mile per hour limit. Absent this ordinance, state law would provide for a speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour inside the municipal corporate limits. The city’s municipal code provides that violations of its provisions are not governed by G.S. 14-4, which otherwise would render the violation of a local ordinance regulating traffic an infraction. The municipal code also states that speeding on a city street is punishable by a civil penalty of $75 and requires that payment be made to the town hall. A local law enforcement officer stops a car that is traveling 40 miles per hour on a city street. May the officer issue a civil citation to the driver, requiring payment of the $75 penalty? May the officer cite the driver for speeding in violation of state law, an infraction? May the officer choose between these two methods of enforcement?
[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared here, on the School of Government’s local government blog. For an update on local government authority to regulate cell phone use by drivers, see this post.] Questions frequently arise regarding whether cities and counties may lawfully adopt ordinances regulating traffic. For instance, may a city or county allow the … Read more