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In addition to the basic rule, Oregon has maximum speed limits. A speed limit is the maximum speed considered safe for the area under ideal driving conditions.
The following speed limits are set in law for the specified areas, whether posted or not. They apply unless a different speed is posted or an established city ordinance specifies otherwise.
15 MILES PER HOUR
When driving in alleys.
Narrow residential areas.
20 MILES PER HOUR
In any business district.
Within a school speed zone.
25 MILES PER HOUR
In residential districts.
In public parks.
On ocean shores, if vehicles are permitted.
55 MILES PER HOUR
On all roads and highways not meeting any other definition unless otherwise posted.
INTERSTATE SPEED LIMITS
Speed limits will vary on interstate highways.
Variable Speed Limits
Digital speed limit signs have replaced some standard speed signs in Oregon. The digital signs will use road, weather, traffic and visibility sensors to reduce the legal speed limit when snow, ice, fog or a crash ahead requires drivers to slow down. The digital displays may also show the reason for a reduced speed.
The Basic Rule Law
The basic rule states you must drive at a speed that is reasonable and cautious for existing conditions. The basic rule applies on all roads at all times.
To obey the basic rule, think about your speed in relation to other traffic, pedestrians, people riding bicycles, the surface and width of the road, hazards at intersections, weather, visibility, and any other conditions that affect safety. The basic rule does not allow you to drive over the speed limit.
If you drive at a speed that is unsafe for existing conditions in any area, at any time, even if it is slower than the speed limit, you are violating the basic rule.
If you drive slower than the normal speed of traffic, you must use the right lane or drive as closely as possible to the right curb or edge of the road, unless you are preparing to make a left turn.
Watch for congestion behind you if you drive slower than the designated speed. Pull off the road at the first safe area and let the traffic behind you pass.
It is illegal to race on any road. Racing can be any acceleration or speed contest or the making of a speed record.
Oregon’s pavement markings follow the national standards. You must obey all pavement markings unless you see a police officer or road worker redirecting traffic.
Are used to separate traffic moving in opposite directions (center line) and to mark the left edge of one-way roads and ramps, two-way left turn lanes, and painted medians.
Solid yellow line
Marks the left edge of one-way roads and ramps.
Broken yellow center line
Indicates a two-way road used for traffic traveling in opposite directions. Passing is allowed for both directions of travel.
Double center line consisting of a solid yellow line and broken yellow line
Indicates where passing is allowed. A broken yellow line on your side of the lane indicates you are allowed to pass. A solid yellow line on your side of the lane indicates you are not allowed to pass.
Double solid yellow line
Indicates passing is not allowed for both directions of traffic. You may turn left, to enter or exit a roadway, across double solid yellow lines after waiting for oncoming traffic to clear.
Two-way special left turn lane
If a two-way left turn lane has been provided, do not make a left turn from any other lane. It is illegal to travel in a two-way left turn lane, so enter the lane just before you want to make the turn. Wait in the left turn lane until traffic clears and you can complete the turn.
You may turn from a side street or driveway into a two–way left turn lane. You must stop to wait for traffic to clear before moving into the lane to your right. Make sure the left turn lane is clear in both directions before entering the lane. It is illegal to use these lanes to speed up and merge with traffic or for passing cars to access a turn lane at an intersection.
Painted median with double solid yellow lines on both sides
Marks the area between two directions of travel. You may make a left turn across a painted median after waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. You may not use a painted median as a turn lane. It is illegal to travel in a median with double yellow lines.
Yellow diagonal stripes
Used within a painted median to inform you of fixed objects in the road ahead or areas where vehicle use is not allowed. It is illegal to drive in or make a turn across these stripes.
Are used to separate lanes of traffic flowing in the same direction and mark the right edge of travel lanes. These are also used for crosswalks, stop lines, symbols, and words.
Solid white line
Used for an edge or fog line to help drivers to stay on the road.
Wide solid white line
Used to direct traffic into specific lanes, such as turn lanes, and to separate bike lanes from other traffic lanes. Crossing a wide solid white line is permitted but discouraged.
Broken white line
Separates lanes of traffic going in the same direction. Crossing a broken white line is permitted with caution.
Dotted white line
Short dotted lines placed closer together than a broken line. Crossing a dotted line is permitted with caution.
When used prior to an exit ramp or intersection, it informs you that the lane you are traveling in will not continue on the same route, such as a right-turn only lane or an exit only lane on the freeway.
When used at a freeway entrance ramp, it informs you that you are entering the freeway and must merge into traffic.
When used within an intersection, it will help guide you through the intersection into the proper lane.
Double solid white line
Means you are not allowed to change lanes and is usually accompanied by a sign prohibiting lane changes for a certain distance. Stay in your lane.
Noted by white lines in an area where pedestrians cross the road. Stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.
A solid white line across your lane to show the point at which you are required to stop.
Identified by a wide white line with a bicycle symbol or a bike lane sign. Bike lanes may be painted green.
A row of triangles in your lane, pointing toward your vehicle to indicate the point at which you are required to yield.
May be used to inform you of fixed objects in the road ahead or other areas where vehicle use is not allowed.
When a driver makes an unexpected or quick movement, other drivers need time to react. The only way you can be sure you have enough time to react is by leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the vehicles around you. That space becomes a “space cushion.” You should try to keep a cushion of space ahead, to each side and behind you.
The speed at which you drive determines how much time you have to act or react and how long it takes to stop. The higher the speed you are traveling, the less time you have to spot hazards, judge the speed of other traffic, and react to conditions.
Always maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. You will have a better view of the road to watch for problems and more time to react.
A safe following distance is defined as 2-4 seconds. For speeds greater than 30 mph, a safe following distance should be 4 seconds or more to allow you time to make a decision and take action.
To determine if you are following too closely:
- Watch for when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes something like a sign or pole. Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot.
- You are following too closely if you pass the mark before you finish counting at least two seconds.
- If so, increase the space between you and the vehicle ahead and count again at another spot to check your new following distance. Repeat until you are no closer than two seconds behind the other vehicle.
When stopping behind another vehicle, make sure you can see where the rear tires of the vehicle in front meet the road. After traffic starts to move, return to a safe following distance.
There are situations, such as those listed below, when you need even more space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. In all of these situations, you should increase your following distance:
On wet or slippery roads. You need more distance to stop your vehicle.
When the driver behind you wants to pass. Slow down to allow room in front of your vehicle for the passing vehicle to complete the pass.
When following people riding bicycles or motorcycles. You need extra room in case the rider loses control or stops suddenly.
When following drivers who cannot see you. The drivers of large vehicles may not be able to see you when you are directly behind them. These vehicles also block your view of the road ahead.
When you have a heavy load or are pulling a trailer. The extra weight increases your stopping distance.
When it is hard for you to see. In bad weather or darkness, increase your following distance to make up for decreased visibility.
When stopped on a hill. The vehicle ahead may roll back when it starts to move.
When you are learning to drive. The extra room provides you time to make critical decisions as you learn.
When approaching or in a work zone. Traffic may slow or stop unexpectedly in these areas.
Side Space Cushion
A space cushion to the side will give you room to react defensively to sudden moves toward your lane by other vehicles. You should:
- Be cautious when driving alongside other vehicles on multi-lane streets. Someone may crowd your lane or try to change lanes and hit you. If possible, drop back a little or move ahead of the other vehicle.
- Keep as much space as possible between your vehicle and oncoming vehicles. In general, it is safest to drive in the center of your lane so your vehicle can move left or right to avoid a potential problem.
- Make room for vehicles entering freeways. If there is no one next to you, move over a lane. Help other drivers signaling for a lane change make the move safely by slowing down or speeding up a little, if needed.
- Keep extra space between your vehicle and parked cars by moving away from them without leaving your lane. A vehicle door may open in your path or someone may step out of a vehicle or from between parked vehicles.
Space Cushion Behind
You can help keep the driver behind you at a safe distance by keeping a steady speed and signaling in advance by gently pressing the brake when you have to slow down or stop. Your brake lights will alert drivers behind you that you are slowing down. If a vehicle behind you is following too closely and there is a right lane, move over to the right. If you can’t move over, slowly reduce your speed. This may encourage the vehicle to pass you or to stop tailgating. Never brake hard to discourage tailgating; you could get hit from behind.
A mistake that drivers make when backing up is failing to look both ways behind them. Mirrors do not give you a full view. To see as much as possible, turn your body and head to the right and look out through the rear window. Check for pedestrians and approaching traffic by glancing to either side, then back up slowly.
You need to know how long it takes to stop any vehicle you drive. Stopping distance can depend on road and weather conditions, the weight of your vehicle, your reaction time, and the braking ability of your vehicle. The faster you drive, the greater your stopping distance even in ideal conditions.
Stopping takes longer than you think. At 60 mph, the distance traveled from the point you recognize a hazard ahead and apply the brakes, to where your vehicle comes to a stop is greater than the length of a football field.
It is important for drivers to scan ahead for trouble spots as far as you can see to help you avoid the need for last-minute moves. Scanning means taking in the entire scene, including the sides of the road. Scanning the road ahead and to the sides helps you see pedestrians ahead, potential hazards, vehicles that may enter your path, or signs routing you to another street or road. Look for clues that a driver ahead may be going to slow down or stop, such as a person riding a bicycle or pedestrian on the road ahead, brake lights coming on, or blinking turn signals.
Slow down before you enter a curve. Use the speed shown below a curve sign as a guide, if posted. Look through the curve to where you want to go and then check the lane position of approaching vehicles. Stay to the right of the center line and in the middle of your lane. Be alert for bicyclists, pedestrians, or slow-moving vehicles hidden around the curve. As you come out of a curve, increase your speed gradually.
Your “blind spot” is the area around your vehicle that you cannot see from the driver’s seat even with the use of your mirrors. Avoid driving in another driver’s blind spot, if possible.
Before you change lanes:
- Use your turn signal to let other drives know you plan to change lanes.
- Check your side and rearview mirrors for traffic approaching you from behind.
- Glance over your left shoulder if you are moving left. Glance over your right shoulder if you are moving right so you can see if there are any vehicles in your blind spot.
Passing another vehicle is a normal part of driving, but can be very dangerous. Give yourself a good view of the road ahead by not following vehicles too closely, especially large trucks and trailers. Know the speed and acceleration ability of your vehicle. Be sure you have enough room to complete the maneuver. If you have to cut back into your lane too soon, you risk sideswiping the vehicle you are passing. If you do not get back into your lane soon enough, you risk a head-on crash with an oncoming vehicle. When in doubt, stay in your lane.
When passing another vehicle on a two-lane road, you should pass only to the left of the vehicle. Your pass may not begin before the start of a passing zone and must be completed before you enter a no-passing zone. Do not exceed the speed limit when passing; it is against the law to exceed speed limits at any time.
Check for a clear path ahead. Before you start to pass, check your mirrors and your vehicle’s blind spot by glancing over your shoulder to the rear in the direction of the lane change. Turn on your signal, increase your speed and complete your pass as soon as possible. When you can see the vehicle you passed in your rearview mirror, signal and return to your lane.
Signs and pavement markings help you determine where you are allowed to pass other vehicles. Do not pass in any area where your view of oncoming traffic is limited.
Do not cross the center line to pass when:
You are in a no-passing zone. Do not attempt to pass a vehicle if you cannot safely return to your lane before entering a no-passing zone.
Your view of oncoming traffic is blocked because you are on a hill or in a curve.
You are approaching, at or in an intersection or railroad crossing.
The vehicle ahead is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross.
You may cross the center line in a no-passing zone only if the right side of the road is blocked or if you are turning left.
Passing on the Right
You may pass on the right only under one of the following conditions:
- The vehicle you are passing is making or has signaled for a left turn. There must be sufficient space to the right for you to pass without leaving the paved portion of the road or driving in a bike lane. The road in front of the vehicle you are passing must be clear.
- You are traveling on a road with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction and the vehicle you are passing is in the left lane. You may pass the vehicle using the right lane.
Use extra care when you pass on the right. Other drivers do not expect to be passed on the right. Do not exceed the speed limit to pass.
When another driver starts to pass, stay to the right. You can help the other driver pass you safely by checking oncoming traffic and adjusting your speed to let the vehicle move back into the right lane as soon as possible. Do not use your hands or lights to signal other drivers when to pass. The law prohibits flashing any of your signals at drivers to let them know when to pass.
Freeways have several lanes in each direction and speeds are higher than on other roads. Traffic on freeways usually moves more efficiently because access is controlled, there are few sharp curves, no railroad crossings, and no traffic signals.
Drive at a steady speed; you will have less need to change lanes. Weaving through traffic increases the risk of a crash and seldom saves time. Try to keep pace with traffic on the road, but do not be lured into exceeding the posted speed to stay with the flow of traffic. If you drive at a speed below the flow of traffic, you must use the right lane. Watch for traffic trying to enter the freeway and adjust your speed to permit a safe, smooth merge.
There are times when freeway traffic slows. Be alert for any hint that traffic on the freeway ahead is not moving at a normal pace. If you spot traffic slowing ahead, lightly tap your brake pedal several times to alert drivers behind you.
Entering a Freeway
In most driving situations, you slow down or stop before you enter a busy road, but when entering a freeway you do the opposite. Use the freeway on-ramp to speed up and merge with fast-moving traffic already on the road.
You must yield to traffic already on the freeway. Use your mirrors and check your blind spots before merging. Adjust your speed to match traffic already on the freeway. Keep moving if at all possible. Drivers behind you expect you to speed up rather than slow down.
If you start to enter a freeway the wrong way, a DO NOT ENTER or WRONG WAY sign will warn you of your mistake. Immediately pull off to the side of the ramp and stop. Turn on your hazard lights to warn other vehicles. Cautiously turn around or back off the ramp.
Ramp meters are placed on some freeway on-ramps. These look like traffic signals, but only operate during certain times of the day. For multi-lane on-ramps, each lane has a ramp meter. Only one vehicle can proceed each time the green light comes on. When your light turns green, speed up to merge with traffic on the freeway. Ramp meters will appear dark when not in use. Do not stop at a dark ramp meter.
Leaving a Freeway
When you leave a freeway, turn on your signal well ahead of time. Maintain your speed until you are off the freeway. Once on the exit ramp, begin slowing to the posted advisory speed. Most freeway exits are numbered to help you quickly spot the exit you want to take. If you miss your exit, go to the next one. Never stop or back up on a freeway. The shoulder should only be used in an emergency.
If you have vehicle trouble on a freeway, move to the right shoulder or emergency stopping area. Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers. If possible, it is better to stay in or near your vehicle on the side away from traffic. Walking along a freeway is dangerous.
Large vehicles or vehicles towing a trailer are longer, higher, and wider than other passenger vehicles. They take longer to accelerate and to stop, and require more room to turn.
When you drive a pickup with a camper, a motor home, or tow a trailer, you should often check your speed and the traffic behind you. If traffic is stacking up behind you, pull off at the first safe turnout to let the traffic pass. Use the right lane on roads with two or more lanes of traffic going in the same direction.
It is against the law to allow passengers to ride in any type of trailer, except a commercial bus trailer, an independently-steered trailer, or a trailer towed with a fifth-wheel device. To carry passengers in a fifth-wheel trailer it must have safety glazing materials in windows and doors with windows. It must also have a way for passengers in the trailer to get the driver’s attention by a visual signal or sound. An unobstructed exit that opens from both inside and outside is also required.
Oregon law allows you to tow a maximum of one boat, general utility trailer, or other vehicle behind a passenger or recreational vehicle. You cannot tow a second trailer or vehicle.
When entering a freeway
- slow down.
- speed up and merge with traffic.
- turn on your hazard lights to warn other traffic.
A broken yellow line on your side of the road only means
- passing is not allowed on both sides.
- passing is allowed on both sides.
- passing is allowed on your side.
When passing another vehicle
- it is okay to exceed the speed limit.
- do not begin your pass before the start of a passing zone.
- you can pass in an intersection if no cars are waiting to cross.
When you stop behind another vehicle, you should be far enough away to see
- where the rear tires meet the road.
- the top of the bumper.
- the brake lights.