Kentucky Judge Rules State's Speed Limit Laws Are Unconstitutional, Inconsistent and Unclear

Jefferson County District Judge, Julie Kaelin, ruled Thursday that three sections of Kentucky's speeding laws are unconstitutional. The ruling also determined that speed limit signs are mentioned nowhere in the state's laws regarding speeding.

According to WDRB, the case came about when Kevin Curry was pulled over on Interstate 71 in Louisville going 93 miles per hour. The posted speed limit on the road was 55 miles per hour.

Instead of simply paying the ticket, Curry fought it in court. His attorney, Greg Simms, made the argument that Kentucky's speeding laws don't make a lot of sense. Judge Kaelin agreed.

It is likely that the decision will be appealed. As of this writing, the ruling will only stand in Judge Kaelin's court. But it could lead to new legislation on Kentucky's speeding laws, leading to a more specific conclusion on what speed limits are.

As Kaelin wrote, " simply does not matter that speed limit signs could be or should be enough, because the statute does not refer a motorist to such signs." On the specific stretch of interstate where Curry was pulled over, the signs say the speed limit is 55 miles per hour. But the law itself makes it seem like the speed limit is 65 miles per hour.

Attorney Simms said he could not find an existing state order or local measure that clearly established the speed limit.

speed limit, state laws, kentucky
In one section of Kentucky, speed limit signs like this may not be as accurate as they could be. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty

Laws regarding speed limits are created by the state, which in turn allows counties or municipalities to set speed limits on local roads. Statutory speed limits can vary by state, and they apply even if a speed limit sign is not posted. Regulatory speed limits are often posted at county lines and city limits. These can differ from the statutory speed limits.

While the case may seem to bring up a technicality, speeding is a serious issue in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that, in 2017, speeding was the cause of 9,717 fatalities. That accounts for more than a quarter of traffic fatalities that year.

The NHTSA considers speeding to be a form of aggressive driving. Sometimes, drivers are running late and want to arrive at their destination more quickly. But speeding can represent a blatant disregard for both the law and the lives of others.

If you are on the road with a speeding or overly aggressive driver, the NHTSA offers some tips:

  • When someone comes up behind you in the left lane and wants to pass, let them.
  • Give vehicles that are going too fast plenty of space. They could lose control of their vehicle.
  • If you believe a driver is following or harassing you, alert the police.

Even in Louisville, Kentucky, if the speed limit is unclear, common sense seems to be the best course of action. In the matter of Kevin Curry's need for speed, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell's office said, " person could sincerely believe it is legal to drive 38 mph faster than the 55 mph speed limit."