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Can you drive 10 mph over the speed limit to keep up with traffic? What Kentucky law says

Can you drive above the speed limit, even if it’s just to pass another slower driver? If you’re on a Kentucky road, the answer seems to be no.

Technically, Kentucky’s “absolute” speed limit law means you can be found guilty of speeding even if you’re only driving 1 mile over the limit, according to the Western Kentucky law firm Rhoads and Rhoads. It is a speed limit after all, not a suggestion.

That said, police officers are generally given discretion when issuing a citation or warning to speeding drivers. So what goes into that decision? Here’s what Kentucky’s law says, just how fast you can travel on the commonwealth’s roads and what the penalties are if you break the rules.

What is Kentucky’s speeding law?

Kentucky law generally establishes that drivers are not allowed to travel at a greater speed “than is reasonable and prudent,” particularly in “having regard for traffic and for condition and use of the highway.”

It goes without saying that what counts as “reasonable and prudent” can vary based on the situation. If there’s heavy traffic or parts of the roadway are under construction, it’s not necessarily reasonable and prudent to fly down the roadway at top speed. Doing so poses clear risks to the driver, passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and even the roadway itself.

That said, there could be other situations that are less clear-cut and obvious. Those determinations are largely left up to the discretion of police officers tasked with enforcing traffic laws.

Law enforcement officers are generally granted broad discretion to make decisions in the course of doing their jobs, for example, whether to write you a speeding ticket or let you off with a warning.

Among other factors, the severity of the violation can inform the officer’s decision, whether you’re speeding a few miles over the posted speed limit or 20. Often, officers may decide it’s a better use of their time to issue verbal warnings rather than write a ticket for every driver on the road who happens to be traveling over the limit. Still, the speed limit is a limit.

“While officers do have discretion when issuing a citation or warning, it is illegal to go over the posted speed limit, even when passing slower traffic,” Lt. Chris Van Brackel of the Lexington Police Department’s traffic unit told the Herald-Leader in an email.

What are Kentucky’s speed limits?

Unless a posted speed limit sign dictates otherwise, Kentucky law limits speed to the following, as explained by the law firm of Lexington defense attorney Dan Carman:

  • In off-street parking facilities: 15 miles per hour

  • In residential areas and within city limits: 35 mph

  • On open highways and limited access highways in urban areas: 55 mph

  • 65 mph on rural interstate highways and limited-access highways

Yes, Forbes just ranked a Kentucky city among top 10 in the US for the worst drivers

What are the penalties for speeding in Kentucky?

Kentucky Revised Statute 189.394 lays out the fines drivers could face if they speed.

For example, if you speed 10 miles per hour over the limit, the fine is $20 with $143 in court costs, according to the Florence law firm of Buzald, Funk and Zevely.

If the speeding offense occurs in a school area where the lights are flashing, the fine is doubled.

Along with fines, there’s also Kentucky’s point system to consider. Drivers accumulate points on their license when they’re cited for various traffic offenses, particularly dangerous ones.

If a driver gets 12 points within a two-year period, they could lose their driving privileges in the state. For drivers under the age of 18, accumulating more than six points could lead to a suspended license.

Here are some select violations and their point values, according to Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet:

  • Driving 10 miles per hour or less above the speed limit on a limited access highway: 0 points

  • Driving 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit on a limited access highway: 3 points

  • Driving up to 15 miles over the posted speed limit on any nonlimited access highway: 3 points

  • Driving between 16 to 25 mph over the speed limit on any road or highway: 6 points

  • 26 mph over the speed limit on any road or highway: Immediate hearing and possible driving suspension

Some other common violations that aren’t related to speeding include:

  • Texting while driving: 3 points

  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicles: 4 points

  • Failure to yield to funeral procession: 3 points

  • Failure to stop for a church bus or school bus: 6 points

  • Improper turn: 3 points

Additionally, while the points themselves aren’t directly tied to your auto insurance premiums, having a speeding ticket on your record can raise your premium.

Do you have a question about traffic laws or Kentucky law in general? We want to know. Connect with us via email at ask@herald-leader.com or submit your question with the Know Your Kentucky form below.