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I Had No Idea Night Speed Limits Existed

Although I’ve only been driving for a little longer than a decade, I thought I had driven enough miles in enough places to have a pretty good idea of how speed limits work. After all, it’s a pretty simple concept, and I didn’t think it was something that varied very much other than the obvious changes in how fast you’re allowed to go.

However, I was recently in Montana driving from the Bozeman airport to Yellowstone National Park in a rented Subaru Crosstrek (which is the ultimate Montana rental car, by the way) and saw a speed limit sign that was unlike any other I had seen before.

Where I was driving in Montana, there were two different speed limits posted: A normal speed limit and a night speed limit. Before I visited Montana, I had no idea night speed limits existed. I was curious why it was necessary to drive slower on remote Montana highways at night, so I did a little homework.

It turns out night speed limits only exist in a few states, each for their own reasons. Colorado has night speed limits for the same reason Montana has them, which is wildlife. Night speed limits in Colorado are only in effect during peak season for wildlife migration when motorists are at greater risk of hitting animals on the road. In an effort to mitigate that risk, they ask drivers to slow down a bit at night when there’s a surge in animals wandering around in traffic. Colorado takes it pretty seriously and doubles the fines when night speed limits are broken.

Some parts of Florida have night speed limits, particularly around nature preserves where endangered animals could be wandering around. Florida also does something clever with the signs where they don’t bother making the daytime speed limit signs reflective, but they do make the night speed limit signs reflective. That way the night speed limit stands out more when your headlights shine on it at night.

Texas no longer has night speed limits, but I found a very interesting fact about when it did. Texas used to have different day and night speed limits for both cars and trucks. The one exception to truck speed limits day or night, however, was with trucks that were carrying America’s most precious cargo: Mail for the United States Postal Service. Delivering mail promptly is so important that trucks hauling mail were above the law in Texas.

Sometimes even specific cities have their own night speed limits. One of them is Tucson, Arizona, which apparently just doesn’t have an adequate amount of street lights — so instead of installing more street lights, they just ask people to slow down when it’s dark out. That’s just as good as illuminating the roads, right?

So not only did I have no idea that night speed limits existed, but it turns out there are some interesting facts about night speed limits in the United States. Unless, of course, I’m the only person who finds this interesting, which is entirely possible.

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  1. When I first got my license in the early 80’s, there was a speed limit sign as you exited the town of Newton Falls, OH (ZIP Code 44444!) that read 55 during the day (when light was shining down from above) and read 50 at night (when illuminated from below by your headlights).  If you stared at the sign as you drove by at night, you could just see it change from 50 to 55 just as you pulled up next to it.  I have never seen that before or since.

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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