Speed Limits and Speed Zones
Speed zones are often taken for granted and until a problem arises, most people pay little attention to the theory behind them. The following information will help you understand how speed zones are established, and what they can and cannot do. The Traffic Division has created an informational brochure to distribute when questions arise concerning speed limits and speed zones. To access this brochure, please click the following: Speed Limit Brochure.
Speed Zone Misconceptions
When traffic problems occur, concerned citizens frequently ask why we don't lower the speed limit. There are widely held misconceptions that speed limit signs will slow the speed of traffic, reduce accidents and increase safety. Most drivers drive at a speed that they consider to be comfortable, regardless of the posted speed limit. Before and after studies have shown that there are no significant changes in average vehicle speeds following the posting of new or revised speed limits. Furthermore, research has found no direct relationship between posted speed limits and accident frequency.
All fifty states base their speed regulations on the Basic Speed Law: "No person shall drive a vehicle ... at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent ... and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property."
Under Oklahoma law, the maximum speed limit in urban areas is 65 mph. All other speed limits are called prima facie limits, which are considered by law to be safe and prudent under normal conditions. Certain prima facie limits are established by State law and include the 25 mph speed limit in school zones when children are present. Other prima facie limits, which are listed in Chapter 20 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, include 15 mph speed limit in alleys and 50 mph speed limit on section line roads. These speed limits do not need to be posted to be enforced.
Speed limits between 25 and 65 mph are established on the basis of traffic engineering surveys. These surveys include an analysis of roadway conditions, accident records and a sampling of the prevailing speed of traffic. A safe and reasonable limit is set at or below the speed at which 85% of the drivers drive.
Traffic flowing at a uniform speed results in increased safety and fewer accidents. Drivers are less impatient, pass less often, and tailgate less, which reduces both head-on and rear-end collisions.
The posting of the appropriate speed limit simplifies the job of enforcement officers, since most of the traffic is voluntarily moving at the posted speed. Blatant speeders are easily spotted, safe drivers are not penalized, and patrol officers aren't asked to enforce and defend unrealistic and arbitrary speed limits.
A 25 mph speed limit signs may be posted on residential streets without conducting a speed survey. A local street which is not designated as an arterial or collector on the Federal System Map or in the City's Current Land Use and Transportation Plan, may have its residential speed limit posted at 25 mph.
Collector streets typically conduct local street traffic to the arterial street system. There are a number of streets in the City which are designated collector streets in order to receive Federal funds for maintenance. Although these streets are of a residential nature, they are not local streets and do require speed limits to be posted based on speed surveys. Typically, the streets have speed limits of 30 mph to 40 mph. Examples of residential collectors include the following:
- Brookhaven Boulevard: Robins on Street to Danfield Drive
- McGee Drive: Imhoff Road to Boyd Street
- Oakhurst Avenue: Imhoff Road to Lindsey Street
- Sequoyah Trail: Rock Creek Road to 12th Avenue NE
Arterial streets are typically multi-lane roadways (existing or planned for the future) serving commercial and business land uses, carry the major traffic flow throughout the City and connect City streets to the State Highway or Freeway system. The speed limit on these streets are always required to be posted based on speed surveys. Typical speed limits on arterial streets are 35 to 55 mph. The following are examples for some of streets classified as arterials:
- Main Street: 48th Avenue NW to 12th Avenue NE
- Lindsey Street: 36th Avenue NW to 72nd Avenue SE
- Alameda Street: Porter Avenue to 72nd Avenue SE
- 12th Avenue East: Classen Boulevard to Indian Hills Road
- Indian Hills Road: 72nd Avenue NW to 48th Avenue NE
- 120th Avenue East: Alameda Drive to Stella Road
Traffic Speeding Issues
The City has an adopted Neighborhood Traffic Management and Calming Program to address speeding and cut through traffic problems. For information about this program, please call the Traffic Control Division at 329-0528.
The City of Norman takes the role of solving traffic problems very seriously, yet the ultimate burden of safety rests with you, the motorist in Norman. Since we receive numerous requests from citizens every year, we cannot always investigate your request as quickly as we would like. However, we will respond after carefully evaluating your request, typically within 45 to 60 days.
We appreciate your patience and understanding.