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Speed limit signs -- too low?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Speed limit signs -- too low?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
June 2, 2011

Woodstock Speed Limit Signs Woodstock Speed Limit Signs

What does it mean, effectively, if the speed limit is posted lower than the speed as determined by the governing body? Let's say you get stopped for driving 10MPH over the limit, and the cop either writes you a ticket or finds something else wrong (no insurance; drugs; whatever...) and tickets you for that.

But what if the speed limit is not really that which is posted on the roadway, but instead the speed limit is actually (legally) 5MPH or even 10MPH higher. If the true speed limit happens to be 10MPH higher than that which is posted, then you weren't even speeding; you were traveling exactly at the speed limit, and you never should have been stopped in the first place.

Does this ever happen? Could it happen? Could it happen right here in Woodstock?

Section 5.3.1 of the Woodstock City Code establishes the speed limit on certain roadways in Woodstock. There is an Illinois statute that establishes the speed limit, and then a City can, after conducting a speed study and some other maneuvers, establish a different speed limit, either higher or lower than the statute.

So, on North Seminary (Route 47), what is the speed limit between McHenry Avenue (Route 120) and the north city limit? The City Code is silent about the stretch of roadway between McHenry Avenue and East Todd Avenue, so the posted 30MPH speed limit is probably correct as the statutory urban residential speed limit.

However, according to the City Code, the City Council has established a 40MPH speed limit on Seminary between Todd Avenue and Birch Road. And then a 45MPH speed limit between Birch Road and the north City Limit of Woodstock.

Notice the signs next time you are driving on Seminary. You'll see a 30MPH sign northbound right at Todd Avenue and then a 35MPH signs at Greenwood Cir. (upper photo). The speed limit there is (legally) 40MPH.

And then it's posted 35MPH all the way to Ware Road, except the speed limit changes (legally) to 45MPH at Birch Road. Would you dare drive 40MPH to Birch Road and then 45MPH from Birch Road to Ware Road, if you had a Woodstock Police squad car or motorcycle right behind you? (Lower photo is at Russel Court, in front of the Government Center).

I know of an out-of-state driver who got ticketed for 48MPH in a 30MPH zone between Todd and Donovan. Yes, there is a 30MPH sign, but the legal speed limit (per the City Council) is 40MPH. So now I'm thinking he didn't "earn" the $200 fine and court costs he paid. He was only 8MPH over the limit, not 18MPH over.

Should Woodstock P.D. review all the tickets that have been written on Seminary and go to court to have them all unwound and the money refunded to the drivers?

What else needs to happen? Either the City needs to conduct new speed studies and reduce the legal speed limits or the City (or Public Works) needs to contact IDOT to change the speed limit signs. Does anyone think 45MPH from Birch Road past the churches and schools to Ware Road is too fast. Aye, Aye and Aye.

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