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County Road Speed Limits

All 50 states base their speed regulations on the Basic Speed Law. "No person shall drive a vehicle.... at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent...and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property."

Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit on county roads is fifty miles per hour except where a reduction in speed is required by Section 10.04.020 or 10.04.040 of the Mason County Code.

The Board of County Commissioners, by ordinance, may raise or lower the maximum speed limit on any county road, except in no case shall the speed limit be raised above fifty miles per hour. Such altered speed limits shall become effective when a road or a portion thereof has been signed in accordance with Section 10.04.030 of the Mason County Code.

Speed limits between 20 and 50 mph other that those described above are established based on traffic engineering investigations.

The safe and reasonable limit is usually close to the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are traveling. Traffic studies have shown that accidents increase if the speed limit is set far above or below this "85th percentile speed."

Another important measurement, the "pace speed," is the 10 mph range in which the majority of cars are traveling. If the posted limit is lower that the 10 mph pace speed or far above the 85th percentile speed, many drivers will ignore the signs and continue to travel at higher speeds. Other drivers will heed the signs and travel near the posted limit. When cars travel at different speeds, problems such as tailgating, illegal passing and congestion arise. The gaps in traffic through which vehicles may safely turn or cross the road are also reduced. Studies show that when speeds are not uniform, accidents generally increase.

Most drivers travel at speeds that are comfortable for them and are influenced more by traffic and road conditions than the posted speed limit. "Before and after" studies have shown no significant changes in average vehicle speeds after posing new speed limits.

What if I disagree with the posted speed limit?

Call Mason County Public Works, at (360) 427 - 9670 ext. 450 A employee will record your service request and begin an investigation based on accepted engineering principles. Please give us as many details as you can about the problems on the road where you are requesting a change. We want to work closely with you to clearly define and address your concerns. When investigating a traffic problem, we consider not only the vehicle speeds and accident history along the road, but all the road features. These features include the grade, alignment, pavement and shoulder conditions, spacing of intersections, amount and type of traffic, and sight distance (the distance from which the drivers can spot oncoming traffic). Often we can improve driver and pedestrian safety without changing the speed limit.

Posting an appropriate speed limit makes enforcement easier, since most drivers will voluntarily travel at the posted speed. Blatant speeders are spotted easily, safe drivers aren't penalized, and patrol officers aren't asked to enforce arbitrary or unrealistic speed limits.

How are speed limits changed?

If our investigation determines that the speed limit should be changed, the following actions will be taken:

The Public Works Department will schedule a public hearing to work toward an agreement on the speed limit.

Public hearing notices will be posted along the road in the area of the proposed speed change and will be sent to local newspapers.

The Board of Mason County Commissioners will conduct the hearing, listening to input from the public as well as county staff. Ultimately, the decision to raise or lower the speed limit rest with the Board of Commissioners.

What else can I do to control speeds in my neighborhood?

Mason County promotes speed-control programs such as the Neighborhood Speed Watch. Through this program, people can monitor speeds and help educate drivers in their neighborhood about following the posted limit.

The Mason County Sheriff's Office will respond to requests for enforcement in nonresidential areas as time, workload and staffing allows. They have a working relationship with the Shelton Police Department and Traffic Safety and can arrange for the placement of the speed monitoring trailer. You may contact Sgt. Russell Osterhout at the Sheriff's Office at 360.427.9670 extension 313 to discuss requests for speed enforcement in your area.