Signs fuel speeding ticket debate
By Julie Finley
The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Natchez Police are no longer issuing speeding tickets to drivers going faster than the posted 35 mph signs but less than the old 45 mph signs on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

Officers are issuing warnings and telling drivers to slow down, though.

When road construction to form a partial cloverleaf intersection with Liberty Road began in the area, orange 35 mph speed limit signs went up. The speed limit was previously 45.

Some tickets were written based on the 35 mph limit, but since then there’s been some debate over whether the orange signs are law or just advisory.

“There is such a thing as a highway work zone,” Municipal Judge Jim Blough said. “You can have a reduced speed limit in such a zone provided such signs are in place.”

But the road construction on Seargent S. Prentiss has moved day-to-day, and sometime the signs weren’t in the right place, Blough said.

Blough has discussed the matter with the Mississippi Department of Transportation — which is doing the work — and the local project engineer, and decided the best way to handle the matter was to get official black and white 35 mph signs posted on length of the highway.

Changing speed limits in the area falls under the authority of MDOT. Liberty Road Project Engineer Nellie Wimberly said the issue is on the agenda for the next transportation committee meeting.

Until final word comes, no one will be fined for going between 35 and 45, Blough said.

Some drivers who already received tickets came in weeks ago, pleaded guilty and paid the fine. Because those drivers admitted guilt, Blough said their fines will stand.

Other drivers have already contested the ticket; they won’t be fined. Anyone who has an unpaid ticket can come in and contest it, Blough said, and their tickets will be reduced to warnings until the matter is resolved.

In the meantime, 45 is too fast to be driving on the highway right now, Police Chief Mike Mullins said.

“The lines and barriers and markings change sometimes day-to-day,” he said. “That’s why 35 mph is necessary. One day it will look one way and the next look another way. Everyone needs to go 35 for everyone’s safety.”