Is There an Autobahn in your Association? The Need to Regulate Traffic Within Gated Communities

The use of automobiles in Florida can be a source of pure enjoyment, but often results in stress and frustration. This is especially true as you witness a neighbor speeding recklessly on the association roads. Safety should always be paramount. Unfortunately, not every driver operates their automobile in a responsible, safe manner leading to all sorts of dangers to pedestrians and property, alike. Local law enforcement can only enforce traffic laws within the public streets of its jurisdiction. So, how can your association be included in that jurisdiction?

When it comes to accessing roads within a community association, there are two types; communities with publicly dedicated roads and communities with private roads, which are commonly referred to as “gated communities”. Enforcement of traffic regulations in a community association with public roads falls under the same mandates for local law enforcement as any other public street of its jurisdiction. The more difficult situation is when a gated community association wants law enforcement to enforce traffic regulations within its private roads. Who has authority to enforce traffic safety? Does local law enforcement have an implied right to enforce traffic laws within the private roads of a gated community?

The Florida Attorney General, in advisory legal opinion AGO 2009-16, addressed whether local law enforcement has the authority to enforce traffic within the private roads of a gated community. The Florida Attorney General determined that local law enforcement has the authority to enforce speed limits and other traffic regulations in a gated private community as long as the association has entered into a traffic control agreement with the municipality pursuant to section 316.006(2), Florida Statutes.

As a quick summary, section 316.006(2), Florida Statutes, provides that a municipality may exercise jurisdiction over any private road located within its boundaries if the municipality and the parties owning or controlling such road enter into a written agreement that is also approved by the governing body of the local municipality. Pursuant to the traffic control agreement, the owner of the private road must agree to provide i) reimbursement for actual costs of traffic control and enforcement, ii) insurance and indemnification for liability, and iii) such other terms as are mutually agreeable. Because the traffic control agreement is an extension of the authority of the local municipality to enforce traffic, any traffic control agreement will also require traffic signage conforming to the Florida Department of Transportation’s specifications. In addition, however, there can be minimum speeds imposed by the Florida Department of Transportation’s traffic laws as well. For example, a gated community in Palm Beach County that wanted local law enforcement’s assistance with enforcing a speed restriction against leaded footed drivers was unsuccessful because its speed limit of 15 MPH was simply too slow for enforcement under state traffic laws. In any event, if all of the aforementioned are accomplished, then the Board, by majority vote, may elect to have state traffic laws enforced by local law enforcement agencies on the private roads controlled by the association.

In addition to the above requirements, Palm Beach County also requires an original certified traffic survey completed by a licensed consultant or engineering firm stating that all traffic and regulatory signs on the property comply with Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Statutes and that the speed limit (included on the survey) complies with Florida Statutes; a map of the subdivision; and an affidavit, executed by a director of the association, stating the association owns the roads.

As to the situation where a Palm Beach County gated community could not enter into such an agreement for local enforcement to enforce traffic regulations in their gated community, the association is not without relief. In that instance, the homeowners’ association could fine the speeding drivers by adopting the requisite rules and regulations and following the provisions set out in Florida’s fining laws, section 720.305, Florida Statutes. For more information on how to do so, please contact your association’s attorney.

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