fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

'Speed limit' means the same as 'speed'

How about a clarification about street speed signs? For example, on Delta Waters Road there are four signs in a short distance near Crater Lake Avenue, three of them show "speed," and one of them, in the middle of the others, shows "speed limit." What is the difference? "Speed" seems to imply that you should go that posted speed, no more, no less, while "speed limit" seems to imply go no more than that posted speed, so a driver could choose to go slower. If they're both the same, why not make them the same?

— Gary E., Medford

It does sound very curious, Gary. Unsurprisingly, none of the speed-limit sign geeks at Since You Asked headquarters have pondered this question before, because they like to go with the flow and bristle at limits of any kind, especially when it comes to the length of coffee breaks, be we digress.

We checked in with Cory Crebbin, Medford's Public Works director, who said that according to rules about sign codes that are followed in the city of Medford, the signs should say "speed limit."

Before you start to wonder if there is a speed-limit sign conspiracy going on here, the reason many signs say "speed" is more mundane than you might expect.

On March 1, 2012, the city adopted new sign rules that require the words "speed limit." However, Crebbin said, "the old signs are grandfathered. We don't have to necessarily update the signs."

In years past, signs with the word "speed" were sometimes reused in the interest of saving taxpayer money. In other cases, "speed" signs have been around for some time and don't need to be replaced.

Crebbin said the older signs could also be replaced if they don't meet certain reflectivity standards. In that case, a new sign would be required to say "speed limit."

No matter whether you see "speed" or "speed limit," it means the same thing.

"You should go as close to the speed on the sign as you can," Crebbin said. "Going faster or slower increases the chance of accidents."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.