10 MPH Over the Speed Limit is Permitted in New England: Myth or Legal?
I remember when I moved from a rural suburb to the Boston area for college, with my car loaded up, and my Dad driving his over-stuffed truck behind me. We were on Route 128 going 65 mph in the left lane, which was not good.
Yes, the speed limit was 65 mph, but we were the only drivers adhering to that limit.
It was so daunting having all kinds of vehicles fly pass us (once we switched lanes), often at 75 or 80 mph. It was that moment I realized the legend of the crazy Boston driver was true.
Fast forward 25 years later. I am one of those crazy drivers, often going 70-75 mph up 95 North, 93 South or 90 West, or on any part of route 128. In fact, sometimes they are one in the same highway, which is baffling. How can you be traveling on 93 North and 128 South at the same time? But, yes in New England, you can.
Which leads me to a question deep in all of our psyches. We've often heard you can go 10 mph over the speed limit, and law enforcement won't bother you. I've heard that theory for years, and while we tend to do it often, is it an unwritten rule of the road?
Here's the truth.
The speed limit is the speed limit. No, it is not legal to go 10 mph over the speed limit, nor is it assumed you are allowed to without consequence. But it gets tricky depending on which New England state you're in.
In New Hampshire, the general speed limit on highways is 65. NH law states that drivers should not proceed "at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing." The speed limit is the law, but you are not necessarily guilty. If you feel you were cited unfairly and were driving safely, "you can take your argument to court", according to gencourt.state.nh.us. It's called a "per se" law, or "presumed speed limits", and not every state has it.
Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island are states with "reasonable and prudent" speed laws, meaning it's illegal to go over the speed limit, but for your own safety, you should drive at a speed that is safe within the traffic around you. You can argue the citation in court if you think you can prove you were driving safely.
Maine, and Connecticut abide by "absolute speed limit" laws. If you go over the posted speed limit, you are breaking the law, according to drivinglaws.org. You can also receive a citation if you are going too slow, as this is not safe driving either.
Is it worth the time and expense to fight a ticket? Only you can decide, but it seems like driving the speed limit takes away the stress of it all.