December 12th: I and my family are heading for CCD. It is approximately 5:20 PM-dark enough that headlights are necessary, but not pitch black. We are traveling at just over 45 mph, and while traffic is light, cars are ahead of us, behind us, and heading towards us on this country road. We are traveling with the traffic, not passing and not being passed. It is not our usual route, but I have traveled this particular way many, many times.
As we pass the State Trooper on the side of the road, parked in a slight gully just after a fence, I comment to Mrs. Curley that he has picked a good position to catch speeders. His silver car with minimum markings almost looks abandoned sitting there.
As we drive on, I look in my rear view mirror and tell Mrs. Curley, "Well he got somebody, cause here he comes." Mrs. Curley asks whether he could be coming after us. Confidently I say, "We're 1 MPH over the speed limit-going slower than most. He has no beef with us." ....
We pull over and are pulled over. As the State Trooper approaches the Mini-Van we are trying to remember where the registration is for the particular car. He asks me if I know why he pulled me over. I reply I have no idea. He says he clocked me going over 45 in a 35 MPH zone. I say 35 MPH-where did that happen? He says he was just several yards past the 35 MPH sign. I tell him that I have traveled this way many times and have never seen a 35 MPH sign. He has compassion and writes the ticket for 44 MPH in the 35 zone-only two points.
But I am curious. Mrs. Curley didn't see the sign either. We are late and can't tarry, but I determine we will come this way again and investigate.
On our next trip out this way, during daylight hours, I see the 35 MPH sign-it is way off the road. So I take a little survey in the area. Note, that while I will call the roads 'highways', they are 2-lane country roads, mostly with speed limits of 55 MPH unless there is a sharp turn or you approaching a town.
From Bethune to Kershaw on highway 341, there are 3 speed limit signs. Measured from the center of the sign to the pavements, they are as follows:
55 mph: 8.5 feet from the road
45 mph: 9.25 feet from the road
35 mph sign: 8 feet from the road.
Leaving Kershaw towards Heath Springs on Rt 521 N the sign distances are as follows (note while doing these measurements I saw the same State Trooper pull over two people):
55 mph sign: 8.5 feet
End School Zone: 8 feet
Reduced Speed Ahead: 9.25 feet
35 mph sign: 17 feet!
This last was the one that got me. You look for traffic postings at a certain spot-this isn't the spot. Passing this sign at night, it isn't even visible unless you have your high beams on.
I tried to prepare my case by looking on the internet for laws or guidelines on posting of traffic signs, but came up empty. But I did not that the back of my ticket states: "The primary aim of traffic law enforcement is to reduce traffic accidents, injuries and deaths through fair, impartial, and reasonable enforcement of traffic laws." So last night, I went to my court date... every one waiting in the room for their hearing was caught on the same stretch of road.
I presented my evidence much the way I presented it above. The judge told me he didn't know what the law was about how far off the road a speed limit sign could be an still be enforceable.
I replied to be "fair" and "reasonable" that at least it had to be seeable without breaking the law-therefore during dark hours it had to be seeable without resorting to your high beams-and this sign didn't qualify.
The judge suggested that I send an email to the highway department, then told me to pay my ticket. I replied that if, (as the notice on the back of the ticket stated), the purpose of the 35 mph zone was to "reduce accidents, injuries and death" then the sign should be moved to the same spot as all the other traffic signs-but that if it was a source of revenue then they best leave it where it was.
Oremus pro invicem!