State v. Isaac. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-16-0718, 14 pp.) (Robert N. Hunter Jr., J.) Appealed from Person County Superior Court. (W. Osmond Smith III, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.
Holding: There is no conflict between state and federal law here: the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways requires engineering studies to set speed limits other than speed limits set by statute. Defendant was speeding on a road where the speed limit was set by statute.
No error in defendant’s speeding conviction.
Defendant argued at trial and on appeal that the speed limit was invalid because federal law preempts state law from establishing a speed limit unless an “engineering study had been done to properly establish the posted speed zone.” After careful review, we disagree that G.S. § 20-141 has been preempted by the 2003 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (“MUTCD”). Accordingly, we affirm.
Trooper Morris’s opinion of defendant’s speed, based on his visual observation and corroborated by the radar results, is “substantial” evidence that defendant was traveling between 65 to 70 mph in a 55-mph zone. Therefore, the state’s evidence was sufficient to survive defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Defendant contends that states may not establish a posted speed limit unless an engineering study has been completed and filed pursuant to federal law, i.e., the MUTCD. Defendant argues that there were “no grounds for issuing a citation due to the fact that no engineering study had been done to properly establish the posted speed zone” in accordance with the MUTCD. We disagree.
MUTCD § 2B.13 provides, “The speed limit … sign … shall display the limit established by law, ordinance, regulation, or as adopted by the authorized agency.” G.S. § 20-141 sets the state’s speed restrictions. Section 2B-13 of the MUTCD clearly allows North Carolina to set the limit to be posted on the sign.
Thus, defendant has failed to demonstrate that the state is precluded from authorizing or adopting a speed limit without first conducting a speed study. Moreover, we fail to find that Congress deemed or intended that the MUTCD preempts the state’s ability to adopt or authorize speed limits.
“Standard: Speed zones (other than statutory speed limits) shall only be established on the basis of an engineering study that has been performed in accordance with traffic engineering practices. The engineering study shall include an analysis of the current speed distribution of free-flowing vehicles.” MUTCD § 2B.13.
Here, the MUTCD plainly acknowledges statutory speed limits and addresses engineering studies only in the absence of a statutory speed limit. Contrary to defendant’s contentions, we fail to see how the MUTCD invalidates the state’s statutory powers to set speed limits.
Defendant has not met his burden of proving actual and direct conflict between federal and state laws; therefore, the presumption against preemption stands.