Rhode Island

CHAPTER 31-14
Speed Restrictions

SECTION 31-14-1

   § 31-14-1  Reasonable and prudent speeds. – No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care. Violations of this section are subject to fines enumerated in § 31-41.1-4.

SECTION 31-14-2

   § 31-14-2  Prima facie limits. – (a) Where no special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with § 31-14-1, the speed of any vehicle not in excess of the limits specified in this section or established as authorized in this title shall be lawful, but any speed in excess of the limits specified in this section or established as authorized in this title shall be prima facie evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful:

   (1) Twenty-five miles per hour (25 mph) in any business or residence district;

   (2) Fifty miles per hour (50 mph) in other locations during the daytime;

   (3) Forty-five miles per hour (45 mph) in such other locations during the nighttime;

   (4) Twenty miles per hour (20 mph) in the area within three hundred feet (300′) of any school house grounds’ entrances and exits during the daytime during the days when schools shall be open.

   (5) The provisions of subdivision (4) of this subsection shall not apply except when appropriate warning signs are posted in proximity with the boundaries of the area within three hundred feet (300′) of the school house grounds, entrances, and exits.

   (b) Daytime means from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Nighttime means at any other hour.

   (c) The prima facie speed limits set forth in this section may be altered as authorized in §§ 31-14-4 – 31-14-8.

SECTION 31-14-3

   § 31-14-3  Conditions requiring reduced speed. – The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of § 31-14-1, drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions and in the presence of tow trucks, transporter trucks, and roadside assistance vehicles displaying flashing amber lights while assisting a disabled motor vehicle. Violations of this section are subject to fines enumerated in § 31-41.1-4.

SECTION 31-14-4

   § 31-14-4  Alteration of prima facie limits by traffic commission. –Whenever the state traffic commission shall determine upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that any prima facie speed set forth in § 31-14-2 is greater or less than is reasonable or safe under the conditions found to exist at any intersection or other place or upon any part of a highway, the commission may determine and declare a reasonable and safe prima facie speed limit for that place which shall be effective at all times or during hours of daylight or darkness, or at any other times that may be determined when appropriate signs giving notice of limits are erected at the intersection or other place or part of the highway.

SECTION 31-14-4.1

   § 31-14-4.1  Reduction of the prima facie limits in historic districts and on scenic highways. – Whenever the state traffic commission shall determine that any prima facie limit set forth in § 31-14-2 is greater than is reasonable in any historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places or on any road duly recognized as a scenic highway by the scenic highway board in accordance with the provisions of chapter 14 of title 24, the commission shall determine and declare a reasonable and safe prima facie limit, in the manner set forth in § 31-14-4, in order to provide for the preservation of the historical character of the district or the scenic quality of the highway, provided that:

   (1) The reduced prima facie limit shall be for a length of road not to exceed one mile or the distance between the boundaries of the district, whichever distance is the lesser, and

   (2) The reduced prima facie limit shall not result in traffic congestion.

SECTION 31-14-5

   § 31-14-5  Reduction by local authorities of speed limits at local intersections and streets within business or residence districts. –Whenever local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that the prima facie speed permitted under this chapter at any intersection or local street within a business or residence districts is greater than is reasonable or safe under the conditions found to exist at the intersection, or local street within business or residence districts, the local authority, subject to § 31-14-8, shall determine and declare a reasonable and safe prima facie speed limit at that place, which shall be effective at all times or during hours of daylight or darkness or at any other times that may be determined when appropriate signs giving notice of it are erected at the intersection or local street within a business or residence district or at its approaches.

SECTION 31-14-6

   § 31-14-6  Increase by local authorities of speed limits in business and residence districts. – Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may in their discretion, but subject to § 31-14-8, authorize by ordinance or by authority granted to any organized traffic engineering department, higher prima facie speeds than those stated in § 31-14-2 upon through highways or upon highways or portions of highways where there are no intersections or between widely spaced intersections, which higher prima facie speed shall be effective at all times or during hours of daylight or at any other times that may be determined when signs are erected giving notice of the authorized speed. Local authorities shall not have authority to modify or alter the basic rule set forth in § 31-14-1 or in any event to authorize by ordinance a speed in excess of fifty miles per hour (50 mph) during the daytime or forty-five miles per hour (45 mph) during nighttime.

SECTION 31-14-7

   § 31-14-7  Reduction by local authorities of speed limits in open areas. – Whenever local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that the prima facie speed permitted under this chapter upon any street or highway outside a business or residence district is greater than is reasonable or safe under the conditions found to exist upon the street or highway, the local authority may determine and declare a reasonable and safe prima facie limit on that street or highway, but in no event less than thirty-five miles per hour (35 mph) and subject to § 31-14-8, which reduced prima facie limit shall be effective at all times or during hours of darkness or at any other times that may be determined when appropriate signs giving notice of the authorized speed are erected upon the street or highway.

SECTION 31-14-8

   § 31-14-8  Local alteration of limits on state highways. – Alteration of prima facie limits on state highways or extensions of them in a municipality by local authorities shall not be effective until the alteration has been approved by the state traffic commission.

SECTION 31-14-9

   § 31-14-9  Minimum speed. – (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

   (b) Police officers are authorized to enforce this provision by directions to drivers, and in the event of apparent willful disobedience to this provision and refusal to comply with direction of an officer in accordance with this section, the continued slow operation by a driver shall be a civil violation and is subject to fines enumerated in § 31-41.1-4.

SECTION 31-14-10

   § 31-14-10  Nighttime limits for motor-driven cycles. – No person shall operate any motor-driven cycle at any time mentioned in § 31-24-1 at a speed greater than thirty-five miles per hour (35 mph) unless the motor-driven cycle is equipped with a head lamp or lamps which are adequate to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of three hundred feet (300′) ahead.

SECTION 31-14-11

   § 31-14-11  Vehicles with solid rubber or cushion tires. – No person shall drive any vehicle equipped with solid rubber or cushion tires at a speed greater than a maximum of ten miles per hour (10 mph).

SECTION 31-14-12

   § 31-14-12  Speed limits on bridges and structures. – (a) No person shall drive a vehicle over any bridge or other elevated structure constituting a part of a highway at a speed which is greater than the maximum speed which can be maintained with safety to the bridge or structure, when the structure is signposted as provided in this section.

   (b) The state traffic commission upon request from any local authority shall, or upon its own initiative may, conduct an investigation of any bridge or other elevated structure constituting a part of a highway. If it shall find that the structure cannot with safety to itself withstand vehicles traveling at the speed otherwise permissible under this chapter, the commission shall determine and declare the maximum speed of vehicles which the structure can withstand, and shall cause or permit suitable signs stating the maximum speed to be erected and maintained at a distance of one hundred feet (100′) before each end of the structure.

   (c) Upon the trial of any person charged with a violation of this section, proof of the determination of the maximum speed by the commission and the existence of the signs shall constitute conclusive evidence of the maximum speed which can be maintained with safety to the bridge or structure.

   (d) Violations of this section are subject to fines enumerated in § 31-41.1-4.

SECTION 31-14-12.1

   § 31-14-12.1  Special speed limits in highway construction and maintenance operations. – (a) Whenever the department of administration or local governing unit with jurisdiction over the highways determines that the preexisting established speed limit through a highway construction or maintenance operation is greater than is reasonable or safe with respect to the conditions expected to exist in that operation, it may, on highways under its respective jurisdiction, determine and declare reasonable and safe absolute maximum temporary speed limits applicable through all or part of the operation. A temporary speed limit so determined and declared shall become effective and shall suspend the applicability of any other speed limit prescribed in this chapter when appropriate signs of the design prescribed by the department giving notice of the limits are erected at or along the operation. When these signs are erected, the total of fines, penalties, and costs assessed upon conviction shall be twice the amount otherwise set by the general laws.

   (b) When street, highway or bridge construction, or a maintenance operation is present, the department of administration or local governing unit with jurisdiction over the street or highway shall erect signs declaring that the fine for a conviction of a traffic violation, as defined by § 31-41.1-4, through the “temporary traffic control zone” shall be doubled. When these signs are erected, the total of the fines, penalties, and costs assessed upon conviction shall be twice the amount otherwise set by the general laws. The prescribed legend for the signs shall be established by the department of administration.

   (c) For the purposes of this section, “temporary traffic control zone” means that portion of a bridge, street, or highway that is identified by official traffic-control devices. The zone includes the entire section of roadway between the first advance warning sign through the last traffic control device, where traffic returns to its normal path and conditions. This zone shall exist throughout the duration of the construction or maintenance operation or as long as the signs remain.

SECTION 31-14-13

   § 31-14-13  Burden of proof in civil actions. – The provisions of this chapter declaring prima facie speed limitations shall not be construed to relieve the plaintiff in any civil action from the burden of proving negligence on the part of the defendant as the proximate cause of an accident.