Reasonable and prudent is the standard

By: 
DONALD WATTS, Lessons from the Bench
The other day, I was presiding at a hearing for a speeding violation. The defendant asked me what the difference was between “speeding” and “speed not reasonable and prudent.” I thought this was a great question and that it would be a perfect topic for an article.

In many states, a speeding ticket would read “10 mph over the posted speed limit.” However, in Arizona, it reads, “speed not reasonable and prudent.” I suppose we are splitting hairs, but I think our way is much clearer.
 
In Arizona, the statute for reasonable and prudent speed is 28-701.A. The law is quite lengthy, so I have paraphrased it. It is available online if you would like to read the entire text. A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances. A person shall also control his speed to avoid colliding with another vehicle or person. 
 
What that means is if you are in a 55-mph zone and a dust storm appears, the reasonable and prudent speed now changes to something slower. Although the sign may say 55 mph, that is no longer reasonable and prudent.
 
On a citation, there are three speeds the officer will reference: First is the posted speed, second is the actual speed and third is the reasonable and prudent speed at that time. I am sure we would all agree that 55 mph in a 55-mph zone during a dust storm is not reasonable. If the officer writes 55 mph actual speed in a 55-mph zone posted with 15 mph as reasonable and prudent, the officer is simply saying that in his/her opinion, during the storm, you should only be traveling 15 mph in a 55-mph zone.
 
One might also ask, “Can you drive over the posted speed limit in perfect conditions?”
 
The short answer is no. That is because after the engineers designed the road, they considered many factors before deciding that the posted speed limit is reasonable and prudent.
 
Lesson from the bench: Always drive a reasonable and prudent speed based on traffic, weather and location.
 
Judge Watts’ webpage is DonaldWatts.info.

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