In the wide world of roads and road users, speed sign regulation can be complex and cumbersome. Thankfully, clarity on one element of speed setting is likely to be granted through Senate Bill 558 A.

A speed zone workgroup was convened in the summer of 2018 to discuss collaborative solutions to challenges in the speed setting process. At the conclusion of the workgroup, partners including the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC), its affiliate, Oregon Association of County Engineers and Surveyors (OACES), the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the League of Oregon Cities, arrived at a policy solution to improve traffic safety on rural roads resulting in SB 558.

SB 558 A provides county road officials and law enforcement agents a tool to react to changing road characteristics and establish safe operating speeds. The bill allows road officials to post signs that would include ‘speed limit’, rather than the current law’s required verbiage of ‘speed’ under the basic rule. This provides law enforcement officers with one definition for maximum speed enforcement: ‘speed limit’, and helps local agencies address safety and driving behavior on all roads, but especially high-risk roads. The modification made by this bill allows counties to post signs that are consistent with cities, and provide greater clarity that basic rule does not allow road users to speed above the posted sign.

If the bill passes, the current culture of speed, which is commonly seen as 10-15 miles per hour over the posted speed is expected to be reduced over time to closer to five miles per hour over the limit.

Clackamas County Traffic Safety Manager, Joseph Marek testified on behalf of AOC and OACES in favor of the bill in early March. In his testimony, Marek cited 88 fatalities between 2015 and 2017 in Clackamas County, with speed as a factor for over 35 percent of those accidents. “The proposed change… will further both state and local agency goals of reducing and eliminating fatal and serious injury crashes. In particular, rural crashes are more severe due to higher rates of speed and longer emergency services response times.”

The bill passed the Senate on a 25-3 vote on June 6, and is slated to move swiftly to the House floor before it moves to the governor’s desk for her signature.

Additional Information on Basic Rule

Basic rule requires drivers to be reasonable and prudent given road conditions, but not in excess of the speeds set in statute:

Residential: 15 MPH

Business: 20 MPH

Parks: 25 MPH

Residence Districts: 25 MPH

Other: 55 MPH

Contributed: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate