Can law enforcement issue you a speeding ticket in North Carolina?


In this 2016 file photo, cars weave their way down Interstate 77 in the Lake Norman area. Work begins Monday, Sept. 20 to mitigate backups on Gilead Road at I-77 Huntersville Exit 23, city officials said.

Observer file photo

Data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation recently indicated that speeding has increased significantly, contributing to nearly 25% of all fatal accidents in 2021.

While speeding remains a major issue in many other major cities, some states have recently passed laws that penalize people who drive too slowly.

A recent South Carolina law which took effect in August gave patrol officers the power to issue $25 citations to drivers in the far left lane who do not try to pass another vehicle.

Other states, including Indiana and Georgia, have passed similar laws preventing slow drivers from blocking traffic in the left lane, according to assuranceauto.orga website that details insurance coverage and regulations.

Here’s what North Carolina law says about driving under the speed limit and whether it’s illegal to do so.

What the NC Laws Say About Driving Too Slow in Traffic

Driving slower than the posted speed limit is not illegal, says UNC School of Government professor Jeff Welty Explain.

“Driving significantly below the posted speed limit is not in itself illegal,” he said. “In fact, it is sometimes required by GS 20-141(a), which states that”[n]o a person must drive a vehicle on a highway or in a public vehicular zone at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent for the conditions.

However, State Law says “no one shall operate a motor vehicle at a speed so slow that it interferes with the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when a reduced speed is necessary for operation.”

Slow driving can also be a sign that a driver is intoxicated, Welty said.

A court case from 1989, State v. Jonesinvolved a motorist who was pulled over by a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper after he was observed traveling at 45 mph on I-95 “at a significantly slower speed than other vehicles” normally travel.

A judge ruled that although the motorist had not committed a traffic violation, “his driving 20 miles per hour below the speed limit and zigzagging in his lane” was enough to arouse reasonable suspicion of a possible intoxicated driver.

Accelerating around a slow driver could get you in trouble

While getting stuck behind a slow driver can be frustrating, speeding around it is illegal in North Carolina.

North Carolina follows absolute speed limits, which means anyone driving faster than the posted speed limit is breaking the law and could be charged with a misdemeanor.

This story was originally published June 2, 2022 11:43 a.m.

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Evan Moore is a duty reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He grew up in Denver, North Carolina, where he previously worked as a reporter for the Denver Citizen, and graduated from UNC Charlotte.

Kevin A. Perras