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Suppose there is a stretch of freeway where the speed limit is 55 mph but traffic is traveling at about 65 mph (which sometimes happens in the area I’m thinking of).

If you drive any speed over 55, you can be cited for speeding, but if you drive under about 62, you could get dinged for impeding the flow of traffic (ORS 811.130). Not only is there no legal speed, but if you drive 61 mph, you could seemingly be cited for BOTH speeding AND driving too slowly.

In response to the comments: The 62 mph number is just a rough estimate of the differential that it would take to irritate other drivers. You can replace it with any number from 56 to 64 and the question is still valid.

What is the correct way to handle this situation?

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    Where do you see in ORS 811.130 says 3 miles per hour? I don't think a court would accuse you of impeding "reasonable flow" of traffic if you are travelling the speed limit, even if you are going 10+ MPH slower than surrounding traffic. – Ron Beyer Apr 10 at 19:45
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    Paragraph 2 of ORS 811.130 says it is not a violation to impede traffic if "proceeding in a manner needed for safe operation". Since the whole point of a speed limit is based on the theory that excessive speed is unsafe, I think you'd have a clear case that driving within the speed limit is "needed for safe operation". – Nate Eldredge Apr 10 at 19:52
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    Here is a case in which the defendant was driving about 10-15 mph below the speed limit. The court found that this didn't even give officers probable cause to stop him on suspicion of impeding traffic. – Nate Eldredge Apr 10 at 20:06
  • Note that the answer is likely different in states that consider prima-facie-speed-limits. – feetwet Apr 11 at 16:21
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What is the correct way to handle this situation?

Strictly speaking, each driver exceeding the speed limit is in violation of the traffic sign even if everybody else also infringes it. Thus it is completely valid for the police to pull & fine anyone from among those drivers.

Statutes like the one you mention are intended for scenarios where a driver departs significantly --and for no apparent [lawful] reason-- from the speed limit, such as driving at 20 mph in a 55 mph zone. Typically a driver would not get pulled over in the scenario you mention (driving at 62 mph where everybody else drives at 65 mph). The exception would be some police department(s) requiring its cops to meet a quota of fines per week, but that would be quite a questionable practice having nothing to do with the legislative intent.

Speed limits are supposed to represent normal and reasonable movement of traffic. If informed consensus is that a particular speed limit is inconsistent with that principle (for instance, where limit is artificially low and raising it would not compromise safety), then a request could be submitted to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

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Yes there are pretty certain speed limits on freeways.

Let's have a look at ORS 811.130:

(1) A person commits the offense of impeding traffic if the person drives a motor vehicle or a combination of motor vehicles in a manner that impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

"normal and reasonable" are the keywords here. Driving at 65 where the limit is 55 is simply not "normal and reasonable" no matter how many dudes do that.

Let's look further:

(2) A person is not in violation of the offense described under this section if the person is proceeding in a manner needed for safe operation.

Speed limits exist for safety. Driving faster is deemed not to be "safe operation". Keeping to speed limit is needed for safe operation — no matter how many speeding dudes you impede.

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  • I often travelled a road with a speed limit of 50mph, which changes to 40mph for about a mile for no reason that I can see. Everyone goes 50 on that stretch, and going 40mph would in my opinion not be safe. – gnasher729 Apr 11 at 17:23
  • @gnasher729 That depends on how gradually you slow down to 40 so that whoever behind you has time to slow down too. Pretty common in NZ as well — roadworkers setup their temporary 30kmph signs and leave them even when they're off for the night because the road is still rough, unmarked etc.; everyone goes 50 not 30. But none of that negates the legal existence of the speed limit. – Greendrake Apr 11 at 22:56

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