Customer question from Tim E.
Road Rules 101: What do those yellow speed signs really mean?
You see them on almost every rural road in the Northwest – those yellow signs, usually preceding a curve, warning of a lower speed limit. But do you know what you're legally obligated to do when you see one? Choose the best option:
A. Slow down to the speed shown before reaching the turn; failure to do so could result in a ticket.
B. Slow down to the posted speed for safety, but know that you aren't necessarily breaking the law if you don't.
C. Slow down, but only if conditions are less than optimal – dark, foggy, wet, or icy.
D. Ignore it. It's only meant for trucks and other oversize vehicles.
Got your answer?
Give yourself a gold star if you answered "B." The signs indicate an "advisory" speed limit, based on characteristics of the road that warrant a lower speed. That could include everything from a sharp curve to heavy pedestrian traffic or even wildlife migration areas. They differ from mandatory speed limits, which are shown on white and black signs.
If you answered "A," give yourself at least a silver star. Officers may ticket you at their discretion if your speed exceeds what they believe to be safe for conditions. That's true anywhere, but perhaps even more so if you're involved in a collision on a stretch of road marked with an advisory speed sign. Laws that would apply are
RCW 46.61.400 in Washington and
ORS 811.100 in Oregon.
We urge you to always heed advisory signs. Engineers set the advisory speed based on testing and modeling specific to that stretch of road. And just as with mandatory speed limits, you may need to reduce your speed further than the advisory limit in poor conditions.
NOTE: While we're experts in loss prevention and home/auto safety, we don't consider ourselves experts in traffic laws or their enforcement. Information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have legal concerns, we urge you to contact a law enforcement source or attorney in your community.