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One of the peculiarities of Texas is that it's normal for people to drive 5-10 MPH over the speed limit while on the interstate. Provided they're not doing a speed trap, the police generally don't care.

Another of Texas's peculiarities is that most drivers don't respect reduced speed limits for construction zones unless there's a speed trap or it's dangerous to go normal speeds.

As a result, if you drive the speed limit, you can conceivably end up driving 15 mph slower than everybody else in construction zones. This is unsafe for you and everybody else on the surrounding road.

Say that you're going the speed limit, and someone hits you because you're going 15 mph slower than the prevailing traffic conditions. Are you liable? You're following the speed limit, but by doing so you made yourself a danger to those around you.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Dale M
    Aug 8, 2023 at 20:21
  • This isn't a Texas thing. Maryland drivers believe the speed limit is more like a guideline than an actual rule. The speed cameras won't click you for anything less than 12 miles over the posted limit.
    – hszmv
    Aug 9, 2023 at 11:23

3 Answers 3

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The situation in Texas is complicated. Driving faster than the posted maximum speed limit is not in and of itself a crime; rather, per Texas Transportation Code 545.352(a), it is prima facie evidence that the speed is a violation of 545.351(a): "An operator may not drive at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances then existing". It is theoretically possible to defeat a speeding ticket by demonstrating that the speed was, in fact, reasonable and prudent.

Texas also has a law regarding minimum speed, 545.363(a): "An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law". Since the speed limit is not a hard limit, the "compliance with law" clause does not protect you.

If you get rear-ended while driving slower than the flow of traffic, your best defense is probably 545.351(b)(2): "An operator...shall control the speed of the vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with another person or vehicle that is on or entering the highway in compliance with law and the duty of each person to use due care". The question in court becomes your claim that driving slowly constituted "due care" versus the other driver's claim that their speed was "reasonable and prudent". It's likely that you'll win, but it's not the slam-dunk case that it would be in a state where posted speed limits were hard restrictions.

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If you are following the speed limit and somebody rear-ends you it is because they were speeding and following too closely. They are making themselves a danger to those around them, and they are liable for the damage.

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  • Thanks for the answer! Aug 7, 2023 at 17:57
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    @MichaelHall The exception to this could be if the person in front brake checked the person who was following too close. I've seen a plethora of interweb dash cam videos showing this. Along with a plethora of people who lied about the situation until they were told there is video evidence to the contrary.
    – Peter M
    Aug 8, 2023 at 13:27
  • @PeterM, I’ve seen them, but that isn’t what this question asked. Aug 8, 2023 at 14:23
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Are you liable?

Technically, no because you were following the speed limit. This is specific because you were following the speed limit (in that you were staying UNDER the speed limit rather than going ABOVE the speed limit).

There is the contrary case of questioning if you're liable if you're going over the speed limit. According to the "letter of the law," you're guilty. According to the "spirit of the law," (and I presume the spirit of the law seeks for drivers to have safe driving conditions as much as possible) you could argue that you were going at a safe speed, relative to research as found by Solomon (in relation to the Solomon curve). It would be a matter of proving-up your case with you having done something "reasonable" rather than negligent.

There are probably other laws to take into consideration, such as reckless driving, which might entice you to not go below a certain speed (despite any posted speed limit). It's all about "reasonableness."

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    "According to the "letter of the law," you're guilty." Not true in Texas and several other states. Texas has prima facie speed limits which means you can rebut them by showing that although you were above the speed limit, it was still safe. Basically "going with the flow" can be a valid excuse.
    – user71659
    Aug 8, 2023 at 4:16

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