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Montana urged to hit brakes on state’s key speeding law

SHARE Montana urged to hit brakes on state’s key speeding law

How fast is too fast?

The Montana Supreme Court was urged Wednesday to overturn the state's "reasonable and prudent" speed limit by an attorney who said the law does not fairly warn motorists just what is too fast.The law sets no specific limit, instead telling motorists to drive in a safe and prudent manner at speeds that are reasonable and prudent for conditions.

The lawyer for a Billings man cited twice for breaking the law - both times for driving at least 85 mph - told the court the law is too vague to be constitutional.

"We, as citizens, need to be going about our activities on the streets and highways and know what kind of activity subjects us to arrest by a police officer," said Penelope Strong, who represents Rudy Stanko.

Attorney General Joe Mazurek said the law should be upheld as one that adequately cautions drivers to choose a speed appropriate for the condition of their automobile, road, weather and traffic.

"We have a common understanding of what speed is too fast," he told the court. "This is a system based on reason."

Montana is the only state without a specific daytime speed limit.

It hasn't had one for cars and light trucks since December 1995, when the federal speed limit was repealed and the requirement to drive at a reasonable and prudent speed became the major enforcement tool for the Highway Patrol.

Stanko was ticketed in March 1996 for driving at 85 mph and seven months later for driving 102 mph, both times on two-lane highways.

His attorney argued that Stanko had no way of knowing what speed he could drive to avoid getting a ticket. That decision is wrongly left to the discretion of individual patrol officers, judges or juries, she said.