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Lower speeds kick in on unpaved country roads

SoVaNow.com / May 14, 2014


Back road drivers beware: beginning July 1, the speed limit on all gravel roads in Mecklenburg County will drop to 35 miles per hour.

The change isn’t restricted to the county; the new speed limit goes into effect for all unsurfaced (dirt and gravel) roads in Virginia.

Until now, the law in Mecklenburg and most counties in Southside Virginia fixed the speed limit on gravel or “nonsurface-treated roads” at 55 mph, unless otherwise posted.

All that has changed with passage of House Bill 854, introduced in January by Del. Scott Garrett of Lynchburg. The new law imposes a 35 mph speed limit on dirt roads, unless exceptions are allowed for roads that the Commissioner of Highways or VDOT deems safe at higher speeds, according to Garrett’s testimony before a House transportation subcommittee.

However, VDOT must install signs posting the higher speed limit before 55 mph travel is allowed.

It has no money in the budget to do so.

By the same token, VDOT won’t post new 35 mph speed limit signs on dirt and gravel roads to inform motorists of the law’s change. There’s no money in the budget for that, either.

Instead, VDOT is hoping the news media will help to educate the public about the new speed limit, said Tommy Johnson of the South Hill residency office.

In introducing the bill, Garrett said it would help clear up the patchwork of speed limits on state’s 9,000 unpaved miles of roadway. Prior to the change, only 11 counties in the state — Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Montgomery, Nelson, Page, Rappahannock, Warren and Wythe — set the speed limit for dirt or gravel roads at 35 miles per hour.

The bill received little publicity as it traveled through the General Assembly, and Johnson said he was surprised to learn of its passage. state Sen. Frank Ruff was one of 14 members of the Senate who voted against it. All 99 members of the House approved the bill in a block vote.



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Comments

Another solution in search of a problem...

Common sense should tell a driver if he/she/it is exceeding a safe speed for road conditions.

Common sense, however, does not enrich the Commonwealth's coffers.

Maybe they're counting on fines generated from this law to fund posting the required speed signs.

One thing I have learned in many years of dealing with laws- if there is a fine attached to any statute, raising revenue is part of the plan.


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