TITLE 21

Motor Vehicles

Operation and Equipment

CHAPTER 41. Rules of the Road

Subchapter VIII. Speed Restrictions

§ 4168. General speed restrictions.

(a) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and without having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway, in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

(b) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subsection (a) of this section, drive at an appropriate speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway and when a special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4168;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  160 Del. Laws, c. 701, §  43

§ 4169. Specific speed limits; penalty.

(a) Where no special hazard exists, the following speeds shall be lawful, but any speed in excess of such limits shall be absolute evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful [for] all types of vehicles:

(1) 25 miles per hour in any business district;

(2) 25 miles per hour in any residential district;

(3) 20 miles per hour at all school zones where 20 mph regulatory signs are posted and state the time periods or conditions during which the speed limit is in effect; such conditions may include when children are present or while 1 or more warning lights flash;

(4) 50 miles per hour on 2-lane roadways;

(5) 55 miles per hour on 4-lane roadways and on divided roadways.

(b) Whenever the Department of Transportation shall determine, on the basis of engineering studies and traffic investigations or upon the basis of a federal law or directive by the Congress or the President, that a maximum speed limit set pursuant to subsection (a) of this section in any particular place on the state maintained highway system is greater or less than is reasonable or safe, the Department shall declare a reasonable and safe maximum limit thereat, which limit shall be effective when posted. Such maximum limit may be declared to be effective either part or all of the time and differing limits may be established for different times of the day, for different types of vehicles, for different weather conditions and when other significant factors differ. Such maximum limits may be posted on fixed or variable signs. Any speed in excess of such displayed limits shall be absolute evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful.

(c) Penalties for violation of this section are as follows:

(1) Whoever violates this section shall for the first offense be fined $20. For each subsequent offense, the person shall be fined $25. A subsequent violation, before being punishable as such, shall have been committed within 24 months after the commission of the prior offense.

(2) Any person violating this section who exceeds the maximum speed limit by more than 5 miles per hour but less than 16 miles per hour shall pay an additional fine of $1.00 per mile, if such violation is a first offense, or $2.00 per mile, if such violation is a subsequent offense, for each mile in excess of the maximum speed limit.

(3) Any person violating this section who exceeds the maximum speed limit by more than 15 miles per hour but less than 20 miles per hour shall pay an additional fine of $2.00 per mile, if such violation is a first offense, or $3.00 per mile, if such violation is a subsequent offense, for each mile in excess of the maximum speed limit.

(4) Any person violating this section who exceeds the maximum speed limit by more than 19 miles per hour shall pay an additional fine of $3.00 per mile, if such violation is a first offense, or $4.00 per mile, if such violation is a second offense, for each mile in excess of the maximum speed limit.

(d) The Department of Transportation shall designate a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour for all portions of Delaware State Route 1 located between the Red Lion Creek and the Appoquinimink River, except for the delineated nonhighway speed toll plaza area. Such maximum limits may be posted on fixed or variable signs. Any speed in excess of such displayed limits shall be absolute evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4169;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  155 Del. Laws, c. 362, §§  1, 256 Del. Laws, c. 17256 Del. Laws, c. 30257 Del. Laws, c. 670, §§  13A, 13C60 Del. Laws, c. 700, §  761 Del. Laws, c. 458, §  165 Del. Laws, c. 503, §  1866 Del. Laws, c. 333, §  170 Del. Laws, c. 186, §  172 Del. Laws, c. 403, §  175 Del. Laws, c. 323, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 411, §  278 Del. Laws, c. 208, §  780 Del. Laws, c. 134, §  1

§ 4170. Speed limits set by local authorities.

(a) Whenever local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that the absolute speed permitted under this chapter is greater than is reasonable or safe under the conditions found to exist, such local authority, subject to subsection (c) of this section, shall determine and declare a reasonable and safe absolute speed limit, which shall be effective when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected.

(b) Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may at their discretion, but subject to subsection (c) of this section, authorize by ordinance higher absolute speeds than those stated in this chapter upon through highways or upon highways or portions thereof where there are no intersections or between widely spaced intersections provided signs are erected giving notice of the authorized speed, but local authorities shall not modify or alter the basic rule set forth in § 4168(a) of this title.

(c) Alteration of absolute limits on state-maintained highways in any municipality by local authorities shall not be effective until such alteration has been approved by the Department of Transportation.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4170;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  157 Del. Laws, c. 670, §  13A74 Del. Laws, c. 110, §  13879 Del. Laws, c. 224, §  1

§ 4171. Minimum speed.

(a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

(b) A minimum speed limit, below which no person shall drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law, may be displayed on appropriate traffic-control devices.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4171;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  157 Del. Laws, c. 670, §  13A60 Del. Laws, c. 700, §  860 Del. Laws, c. 701, §  44

§ 4172. Speed exhibitions; drag races and other speed contests.

(a) No person shall drive any vehicle in any race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, exhibition of speed or acceleration and no person shall aid, abet, promote, assist or in any manner participate in any such race, competition, contest, test or exhibition.

(b) No person shall accelerate or try to accelerate a vehicle, or any of its tires, regardless of whether the vehicle is stationary or in motion, at a rate which causes the drive wheels to spin or slip on the road surface, to produce smoke from tire slippage, or to leave visible tire acceleration marks on a highway, ground, or other surface. This subsection shall not apply during periods of inclement weather, unless such conduct is done in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

(c) No owner or person in charge of a vehicle shall permit that vehicle or any vehicle under the person’s control to be used by another person for any of the purposes listed in subsection (a) or (b) of this section. If any vehicle is used in violation of this section and the identity of the operator is not otherwise apparent, the person in whose name such vehicle is registered as the owner shall be held prima facie responsible for such violation.

(d) (1) A violation of this section is an unclassified misdemeanor for the first offense. For a first offense, any sentence shall also include 16 hours of community service either as a condition of probation or pursuant to § 4204(m) of Title 11. A subsequent like offense is a class A misdemeanor. For a subsequent offense, any sentence shall also include 40 hours of community service either as a condition of probation or pursuant to § 4202(m) of Title 11. Any fine imposed may not be suspended. Upon receiving notice of a conviction for a first offense, the Secretary shall forthwith suspend the driver’s license of the person convicted, for a period of 6 months. Upon receiving notice of a conviction of a subsequent like offense, the Secretary shall suspend the driver’s license for a 1-year period. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there shall not be a suspension of driver’s license upon conviction for a first offense under subsection (b) of this section.

(2) a. Whenever a person is arrested or issued a citation for a violation of this section, the issuing or arresting law-enforcement agency shall impound the vehicle used in the offense. A law-enforcement officer may elect not to impound the vehicle, if there is an emergency or medical necessity jeopardizing life or limb, or if the law-enforcement officer is presented with exigent circumstances, including resource constraints.

b. A vehicle impounded pursuant to this section shall be impounded for a period of 72 hours after the time of arrest or citation, or until such later time as the person claiming the vehicle meets the conditions for release listed in paragraph (d)(2)d. of this section. This section does not otherwise limit any other provisions of the Code that govern the lawful seizure of vehicles or evidence.

c. A vehicle impounded pursuant to this section may be released to a person other than the arrestee prior to the end of the impoundment period only under 1 of the following conditions:

1. The arrestee does not own and has not leased the vehicle, and the person who owns or leases the vehicle claims the vehicle and meets the conditions of release set forth in paragraph (d)(2)d. of this section.

2. The vehicle is owned or leased by the arrestee and the arrestee gives permission to another person, who has provided written acknowledgment that he/she is responsible for not allowing the arrestee to drive the motor vehicle during the balance of the impoundment period, and the conditions for release in paragraph (d)(2)d. of this section are met. Should another person obtain the early release of an impounded vehicle under this paragraph and the arrestee thereafter drives, operates, or is in actual physical control of the vehicle during the balance of the 72-hour period of impoundment, the person that obtained the early release of the vehicle shall be guilty of a violation and subject to a $200 fine, which shall not be suspended. In any such prosecution under this paragraph, the State does not need to present a copy of the written acknowledgement.

d. A vehicle impounded pursuant to this section shall not be released unless all of the following conditions are met:

1. The claimant presents a valid driver’s license or other photo identification, proof of ownership or lawful authority to operate the motor vehicle, and proof of valid motor vehicle insurance for that vehicle. If the vehicle will be driven out of impoundment, the claimant must have a valid driver’s license or be accompanied by a person with a valid driver’s license. If the vehicle is an ATV or OHV, proof of insurance is not necessary.

2. The claimant is able to operate the vehicle in a safe manner and would not be in violation of § 4177(a) of this title.

3. Any other conditions for release established by the law-enforcement agency have been met.

4. All reasonable towing and storage fees connected to the vehicle have been paid. The State and the arresting law-enforcement agency shall not be liable for any expenses incurred in connection with the towing and storage of said vehicle.

(e) (1) This section applies on highways and elsewhere throughout the State including all of the following:

a. On any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business or governmental property open to the public.

b. On the premises of any industrial establishment providing parking space for customers, patrons, or employees.

c. On any highway under construction or not yet open to the public.

(2) This section does not apply on any raceway, drag strip, or other place customarily and lawfully used for speed exhibitions or contests, or any nonresidential commercial, industrial, or other property where the participants have received express permission from the owner or the owner’s agent.

(3) For the purpose of this section, the term “vehicle” includes “all terrain vehicle,” “ATV,” “Off-highway vehicle,” and “OHV” as those terms are defined in § 101 of this title.

(4) For purposes of this section, a “subsequent offense” means a new violation of either subsection (a) or (b) of this section occurring within 5 years of the date of any former offense under this section.

(f) (1) If a person is found in violation of this section and the vehicle used in the violation is registered to that person or where the registrant permits the use of the vehicle, the court, at the time of sentencing the operator for violating this section, may, upon motion by the State, order said vehicle be impounded for up to 90 days for the first violation of this section, and for up to 1 year for a subsequent violation, provided that a public or private secure storage area may be obtained by the arresting law-enforcement agency for said vehicle. The court shall permit any party with a legal or equitable interest in the vehicle an opportunity to show cause why the impoundment of such vehicle should cease. Prior to releasing said vehicle, the person to whom the vehicle is released shall pay all reasonable towing and storage fees connected therewith. The State and the arresting law-enforcement agency shall not be liable for any expenses incurred in connection with the towing and storage of said vehicle.

(2) In lieu of impoundment under paragraph (f)(1) of this section, the court may order that the number plate or registration plate of any vehicle used in connection with a violation of subsection (a) of this section be surrendered to the Department within 72 hours of the issuance of the order, or in accordance with the Department’s procedures, for up to 90 days for the first violation of this section, and for up to 1 year for a subsequent violation. The court shall permit any party with a legal or equitable interest in the vehicle an opportunity to show cause why the surrender of said plate should cease. After a person is convicted for a violation of this section, no person shall sell, transfer, or encumber the title to a vehicle that the person knows is subject to a court order, except in the case of salvage, repossession, or unless first approved by the court that issued the order. The Department may not issue any alternate number plate or registration plate to that vehicle during the period of surrender, unless approved by the court that entered the order or upon presentment of proof of salvage or repossession. Anyone convicted of a violation of this section is prohibited from driving, operating, or being in physical control of the vehicle during the period of surrender absent specific court approval, regardless of any legal or equitable interest they might have in the vehicle.

(g) Whenever any vehicle has been used in, or in connection with, the commission of a violation of this section, or in connection with the flight or escape of any person convicted of a violation of this section, and any vehicle involved causes serious physical injury or death to another person during the course of the violation, or its operator is in violation of § 4177(a) of this title as a second offense or higher, the State, pursuant to the procedure governing set forth in Chapter 23 of Title 11 may seek to have forfeited any vehicle involved, whether it be the vehicle or an accomplice vehicle.

(h) Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or otherwise limit prosecution of or conviction for a violation of this chapter or any other provision of law. A person may be prosecuted and convicted of both the offenses of speed exhibitions, drag races and other speed contests and any other offenses as defined elsewhere by the laws of the State.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4172;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  156 Del. Laws, c. 31557 Del. Laws, c. 670, §  13B60 Del. Laws, c. 702, §  170 Del. Laws, c. 186, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 60, §  1283 Del. Laws, c. 294, § 1

§ 4172A. Malicious mischief by motor vehicle.

(a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause wilful, wanton or reckless damage to or destruction of property owned by another person, party, company or corporation.

(b) No owner or person in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit that motor vehicle or any motor vehicle under the person’s control to be operated by another person in such a manner as to cause wilful, wanton or reckless damage to or destruction of property owned by another person, party, company or corporation, nor so as to cause or threaten to cause injury or death to any person.

(c) Whoever being an operator violates this section shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor, and shall be fined for the first offense not less than $25 nor more than $200, or imprisoned not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days or both. Upon receiving the notice of such conviction, the Secretary shall forthwith suspend the driver’s license of the person convicted, for a period of not longer than 6 months. For each subsequent like offense, the person shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $400, or imprisoned not less than 15 days nor more than 60 days or both. Upon receiving a court record of conviction for a subsequent like offense, the Secretary shall suspend the driver’s license for a 1-year period.

(d) Whoever being the owner or person in charge of a motor vehicle who permitted such motor vehicle to be operated in violation of this section shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor, and shall be fined for the first offense not less than $28.75 nor more than $230, or imprisoned not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days or both. For each subsequent like offense the person shall be fined not less than $57.50 nor more than $460, or imprisoned not less than 15 days nor more than 60 days or both.

(e) This section shall apply to the operation of motor vehicles on public highways and elsewhere throughout the State.

60 Del. Laws, c. 702, §  462 Del. Laws, c. 153, §  168 Del. Laws, c. 9, §  3070 Del. Laws, c. 186, §  177 Del. Laws, c. 60, §  13

§ 4173. Speed and weight limits on elevated structures.

(a) No person shall drive a vehicle over any bridge or elevated structure constituting a part of a highway at a speed which is greater than the maximum speed which can be maintained with safety to such bridge or structure, when such bridge has traffic-control devices displayed.

(b) No person shall drive a vehicle over any bridge or elevated structure constituting a part of a highway when such vehicle’s gross weight, including carried load, is greater than the maximum weight which can be maintained with safety to such bridge or structure, when such structure has traffic-control devices displayed.

(c) The existence of traffic-control devices shall be conclusive evidence of the maximum speed or gross weight, including carried load, which can, with safety to any such structures, be maintained thereon.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4173;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  157 Del. Laws, c. 670, §  13A60 Del. Laws, c. 701, §  45

§ 4174. Complaint and summons in speed violations.

In every charge of violation of any speed regulation in this chapter, except §§ 4168 and 4172 of this title, the complaint and the summons or notice to appear shall specify the speed at which the defendant is alleged to have driven and the maximum or minimum speed applicable at the location.

21 Del. C. 1953, §  4174;  54 Del. Laws, c. 160, §  160 Del. Laws, c. 701, §  46