Michigan bill would revise speed limit rule

September 4, 2020

Keith Goble

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An effort under review in the Michigan House is touted to clear up confusion in state law about how state and local roadway speeds are set.

The House Transportation Committee met recently to discuss bills that included legislation to revise how the state observes the 85th percentile speed rule – the speed at or below which 85% of vehicles travel in free-flowing traffic.

Michigan law states that speeds on state and local roads be rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland, the bill would free up the state to round down when necessary.

Slagh provided the committee with an example of the 85th percentile speed on a roadway to be 37.6 mph. He said his bill would give the state flexibility to set the speed at 35, instead of being required to bump it up to 40.

Additionally, HB4733 would give local governments the authority to deviate from the 85th percentile rule in certain instances.

“The bill further allows a city or village to set the roadway speed limit below the number only if a professional engineer demonstrates there is a situation on the roadway that threatens public safety, and is not reflected in the 85 percentile speed,” Slagh testified.

He said roadways near schools, parks or churches would qualify under the special privilege.

In such circumstances, cities or villages would be permitted to set speeds below the 50th percentile. Townships would be excluded from the flexibility in setting speeds below the 50th percentile.

Slagh said the Michigan State Police did not support the inclusion of townships in the new speed language.

Holland, Mich., Police Chief Matt Messer testified he is in favor of the changes because the bill would help ensure the state is not required to round up when setting speeds.

“In doing so, you’re no longer within the 85th percentile,” Messer said. “You are up into the low 90s, which I don’t think is the intent of the law.”

The committee did not vote on the bill.

More Land Line coverage of news from Michigan is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.