Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's the Speed Limit, Really?

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) raised the speed limit on the Dallas North Tollway. Or did they? The brand new white speed limit signs saying 65 MPH certainly suggest they did. The NTTA soon decided that slight curves and rises cause blind spots that called for lower speeds along some stretches, so NTTA erected brand newer yellow signs specifying a 50 MPH speed limit. In some cases, the newer yellow signs are within sight of the new white signs. So, what's the speed limit? Hard to say. Two signs, different numbers.

Some drivers believe that the yellow signs aren't speed limits at all, only recommended maximum safe speeds. They claim that the "real" speed limits are posted on the white signs. Left unexplained is why the Department of Public Safety would set the real speed limit at 15 MPH above the maximum safe speed.

The Texas Department of Public Safety doesn't completely clear up the confusion. In a story in The Dallas Morning News, spokesman Lisa Block says police do not enforce the yellow advisory signs, except if you cause an accident. So, is a speed limit that police usually ignore, but sometimes enforce, a speed limit or not? Conspiracy theorists might call it entrapment. The Department of Public Safety lures drivers with the white signs suggesting it's OK to drive at an unsafe speed, then when accidents ensue, tickets the drivers for violating the yellow signs.

There's a simple solution. Remove the white signs in the stretches of highway with limited visibility, leaving only the yellow signs there. Whether or not the police choose to enforce that yellow speed limit, at least there'll be only one speed limit posted for each stretch of road. Not that it will make much difference. The DMN quotes one driver who points out the irony of the whole matter, "Obviously, no one is paying attention to [the signs], white or yellow. People seem to drive as fast as they want."

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