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When speed limits aren’t posted

A reader submitted the following question: “Can you clarify what the speed limit is on a rural, unposted road? Is the speed limit lower on gravel roads than it would be on paved rural roads?”

Under MCL 257.627 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, it discusses speed limits. Section 10 states, “Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the speed limit on all county highways with a gravel or unimproved surface upon which a speed limit is not otherwise fixed under this act is 55 miles per hour, which shall be known as the ‘general gravel road speed limit.'”

So, to answer the question, if a rural road does not have a posted speed limit sign or is not in an area designated by a lower speed limit, the speed limit will always be 55 mph. Many of the rural roads in Alpena County are not paved, but they have a speed limit of 55 mph.

In other counties surrounding Alpena, their rural roads are paved and have a speed limit of 55 mph, so the speed limit is not determined by the road surface.

Another section of MCL 257.627 is referred to as the Basic Speed Law.

Section 1 of that statute covers varying driving conditions and requires drivers to “drive at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing.”

That means that, on any road, gravel or paved, a driver can only drive at a speed that can be done so safely.

Gravel, wind, snow, and any other conditions may reduce the maximum safe driving speed.

That part of the statute comes into play when a driver states they lost control of their vehicle and crashed as a result of the bumpy dirt road, snow, or even ice.

Under the Violation of the Basic Speed Law, a driver can be cited for failing to maintain their lane of travel, even if they are traveling under the posted speed limit, as it is dependent upon the conditions of the road and maintaining their lane of travel, not the speed of their vehicle.

If a driver is cited for such a violation, the driver will face a civil infraction and fines and costs of approximately $110.

Ashley Simpson is a community service trooper for the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police-Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave., Alpena, Michigan, 49707.