Driving at An Unreasonable Speed In Delaware
Section 4168 (a) of Title 21 of the Delaware Code provides in pertinent part that "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." See 21 Del. C. 4168 (a).
This section of the Delaware Code is intended to be used when the State contends the maximum safe speed is less than the posted speed. State v. Rundquist, Del. CCP, Cr.A. No. 95-15, at 3, DiSabatino J. (January 27, 1975).
It is appropriate to use when there are special circumstances creating hazardous conditions, such as fog, icy road surfaces and hazards due to road construction, just to name a few. Id.
Section 4169 of Title 21 of the Delaware Code (speeding in excess of lawfully determined speed limits) ("Speeding") and Section 4168 of Title 21 of the Delaware Code (dealing with unreasonable or unsafe speeds given the conditions and hazards existing) ("Unreasonable Speed") are both intended to insure that individuals drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent. Speeding is applicable when a driver drives in excess of a lawfully posted speed limit.
Unreasonable Speed is applicable when the individual is driving at a speed that is less than the posted speed limit, but, is unreasonable due to the special conditions or actual or potential hazards then existing. Therefore, a driver should not be charged with a violation of Unreasonable Speed pursuant to Section 4168 when the State intends to rely upon the posted speed limit.
The essential elements for a violation of Unreasonable Speed pursuant to Section 4168 (a) of Title 21 of the Delaware Code are:
that the defendant drove a motor vehicle on a public highway
that the conditions and actual and potential hazards existing on the highway required a reasonable speed that was less than the posted speed limit
that the defendant drove his or her motor vehicle at a speed in excess of the reasonable speed.
The State is required to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See 11 Del. C. Section 301. State v. Matushefske, Del. Supr., 59 Del. 163, 215 A.2d 443, 9 Storey 163 (1965).
In the instant case, the State has failed to establish a reasonable speed less than the posted speed limit that was necessary due to the conditions then existing.
In fact, although there was some testimony concerning moderately heavy traffic, the arresting officer was able to pace the Defendant's vehicle at a speed greater than the posted speed limit for almost a mile without incident. Thus, the State has failed to prove the elements of the offense of Unreasonable Speed beyond a reasonable doubt.