New Jersey lawmaker pursues ‘fact-based’ speed limit

August 13, 2018

Keith Goble


If a New Jersey state legislator gets his way, how speed limits are set on the state’s busiest roadways would be overhauled.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, has introduced a bill to change the formula for setting speed limits. Specifically, he wants speed limits on limited access highways that include the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to be set using the 85th percentile formula.

The formula bases speed limits on the rate at or which 85 percent of drivers are traveling.

“Right now virtually 100 percent of drivers on our under-posted limited access highways are breaking the law,” O’Scanlon said in prepared remarks. “Either they/we are all reckless, homicidal maniacs or our method of setting speed limits is seriously flawed.”

If approved, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and other state traffic agencies would use 85th percentile studies to set speed limits. State agencies would reevaluate speed limits at least every 10 years, or when a road is substantially changed.

O’Scanlon said adopting the formula is a better option for setting speed limits than relying on politicians and bureaucrats to make the correct decision.

“My position is that we need to remove legislators and bureaucrats from the speed limit setting process and empower highway traffic safety engineers to do their jobs unencumbered by political influence,” O’Scanlon stated.


Critics say drivers face multiple distractions while behind the wheel. They voice concerns that decreased reaction times due to distractions and possible faster speeds would make wrecks more devastating.

O’Scanlon says he is not looking to change how fast people drive.

“We are talking about having speed limits reflect the speeds people are already driving so that we have a better, more uniform flow of traffic.”

He adds that the change would result in “the smoothest, safest level of traffic flow and inflict the least amount of arbitrary punishment on people behaving reasonably.”

Also included in the bill is a provision to limit fines for speeding violations. Citations handed out for speeding on a roadway where a traffic study has not been completed would be limited to $20.

The bill, S2876, awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.


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.