Four Major Speed Laws in California Explained

May 18, 20 by Jorian Goes

Four Major Speed Laws in California Explained

California tops the charts when it comes to traffic violations. Reports suggest that drivers in California are used to driving ‘fast’, which is why over 4 million traffic tickets are issued in the state each year.

The truth is that no one likes being pulled over. We hate the thought of being issued a ticket. Unfortunately, not everyone’s fully aware of California traffic laws. Some even think it is okay to go above the speed limit if it helps improve the flow. This is just a myth as nothing can justify breaking the law.

Every driver in California must be aware of the four major speed laws. They are:
These California traffic laws are made to improve road safety and make it safer for the 40 million Californian residents to use the roads.

  • Basic Speed Law
  • Prima Facie Speed Law
  • Maximum Speed Law
  • Minimum Speed Law
  • Let’s have a look at California traffic laws and have a clear understanding of what each says:

    California Basic Speed Law

    The state’s Basic Speed Law applies in most cases and requires drivers to not exceed a safe speed.

    Here’s what the law says:

    “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.”

    This rule applies when you go above the ‘limit’ that’s not defined by the law and depends on a number of factors. However, you must not go above 65mph for this rule to apply.

    The court will send you a ‘courtesy notice’ after you get a citation. The notice typically contains information on your ticket including the amount you owe and your traffic school eligibility.

    Since there’s no specific speed limit, here are a few factors that define the ‘appropriate’ speed:
    You can use these factors to fight your ticket. However, you will need a skilled lawyer who understands the four major speed laws in California to fight your case.

    • The Flow of Traffic: This includes the number of vehicles on the road and the speed they’re going at.
    • Weather Conditions: This mainly refers to visibility and if it was snowing, raining, etc. You’re supposed to go slow if the road is messy due to the rain.
    • Pedestrians: This is a very important factor because going above the speed can cause harm to pedestrians.
    • Road Condition: You’re supposed to go slow on slippery or bumpy roads as speeding on such surfaces can cause accidents.
    • Situation: If there was an ambulance or a damaged vehicle on the road due to an accident.
    • Zone: If you were driving in a construction zone or around schools.
    • Signage: If there were warning signs.

    This rule applies to the drivers of commercial vehicles as well, however, with a few more conditions.

    Fines are in the range of $35 to $500 and the DMV exposure is 1 point.

    Maximum Speed Law

    This law prevents drivers from going above the assigned speed limit. The maximum speed limit on most highways in the state is 65mph. You can go above this limit if the sign says so.

    The maximum limit on highways is 55mph when no speed sign is posted – applies on undivided two lane highways.

    Here’s what the law says:

    (a) Except as provided in Section 22356, no person may drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour.

    (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person may drive a vehicle upon a two-lane, undivided highway at a speed greater than 55 miles per hour unless that highway, or portion thereof, has been posted for a higher speed by the Department of Transportation or appropriate local agency upon the basis of an engineering and traffic survey….

    This law applies in all situations including your attempt to pass a slow vehicle. Speed limit signs are based on a number of factors including the average speed and road conditions.

    This is very important because going above the speed limit can be very risky for you and others around you. High speed affects your stopping distance. If you’re going fast, you will have less time to react and avoid an accident.

    The impact of a 50mph crash isn’t twice as great as a 25 mph crash, it’s actually 4x times. The slower you are, the better it is for everyone involved.

    Fines depend on your speed, i.e: how much you exceeded the limit by. The DMV exposure for this one is 1 point.
    This law mandates maximum speed limits in zones where there are no speed limit signages. The law expects you to be aware of the maximum speed in such zones and to follow it.

    California Prima Facie Speed Law

    Here’s what the law says:

    “(b)A local authority may, by ordinance or resolution, determine and declare prima facie speed limits as follows:

    (A) A 15 miles per hour prima facie limit in a residence district, on a highway with a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour or slower, when approaching, at a distance of less than 500 feet from, or passing, a school building or the grounds of a school building, contiguous to a highway and posted with a school warning sign that indicates a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, while children are going to or leaving the school, either during school hours or during the noon recess period. The prima facie limit shall also apply when approaching, at a distance of less than 500 feet from, or passing, school grounds that are not separated from the highway by a fence, gate, or other physical barrier while the grounds are in use by children and the highway is posted with a school warning sign that indicates a speed limit of 15 miles per hour…

    (2) The prima facie limits established under paragraph (1) apply only to highways that meet all of the following conditions:
    (3) The prima facie limits established under paragraph (1) apply to all lanes of an affected highway, in both directions of travel.

    (A) A maximum of two traffic lanes.

    (B) A maximum posted 30 miles per hour prima facie speed limit immediately prior to and after the school zone.

    (4) When determining the need to lower the prima facie speed limit, the local authority shall take the provisions of Section 627 into consideration.

    Not following the law can result in a citation. An example of this law includes driving in the neighborhood and going above 30mph. The law expects you to control your speed when you’re in a neighborhood on a street even if there’s no signage.

    The Prima Facie speed limit in school zones, business districts, and residential areas is 25mph. Similarly, it’s 15mph for railway crossings and alleys.

    However, if there is a sign that mentions a different number then it’s to be followed.

    Some special zones may have different requirements, i.e: some school zones have a maximum speed limit of 15 mph.

    The purpose of the Prima Facie Speed Law is to make roads safer and make sure everyone’s protected even in the absence of speed signs.

    Remember that not being aware of the law is not a valid excuse in the court of law.

    Minimum Speed Law

    As off as it may sound, you may get a citation for going too slow in California.

    The state’s Minimum Speed Law encourages drivers to not be too slow as it can disrupt the flow of traffic and even result in accidents. However, this law does not apply throughout the state and only some cities or areas are known to have minimum speed limits.

    Here’s what the law says:

    “Whenever the Department of Transportation determines on the basis of an engineering and traffic survey that slow speeds on any part of a state highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the department may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which no person shall drive a vehicle, except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law, when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected along the part of the highway for which a minimum speed limit is established.”

    Just like the Basic Speed Law, varying factors decide the ‘minimum’ speed and you may have a right to challenge a ticket if you feel that your speed was adequate given the circumstances, i.e: if there were pedestrians on the road.

    Breaking Major Speed Laws: Consequences and Risks

    It is very important to follow the law. Breaking the law can get you into serious trouble. Here are some risk factors:

    Injuries and Damages

    Accidents are bad as they can lead to physical injuries to the driver, passengers, passengers in other vehicles, and pedestrians. Plus, they can also lead to financial losses as accidents can result in damage to the vehicles, public property, and others on the road including stationary or parked vehicles.

    The purpose of speed laws in California is to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sound. It is important for every driver to be aware of laws and put their best foot forward when going behind the wheel.

    Suspended License

    Your license may get suspended if it’s a serious or repeated crime. You will need the help of a reliable lawyer to fight your case and make sure you’re able to go behind the wheel again.

    In most cases, the license will not get suspended if it is a minor offense. However, contrary to popular belief, your first speeding ticket can result in a suspension if you were going very high above the limit.

    The court may suspend your driver’s license for 30 days if it is your first conviction. Your next suspension will be for 60 followed by a suspension for 12 months.

    Ticket and Points

    Over-speeding is not only risky but it can also result in a fine that can be as high as $1,000. The amount depends on several factors and, in some cases, can be fought back.

    Moreover, accidents and tickets are assigned points in California. Each incident is between 1 - 2 points. All drivers must try to keep the score to a minimum as accumulating points can result in higher fines and getting the license suspended.

    Jail Time

    While it is a rare occurrence, you may get jail time if it’s a serious or repeated crime. Hit and run cases and DUI can often result in jail time as they’re considered very serious crimes.

    Drivers can be sentenced to between five and 90 days depending on circumstances such as the speed, road conditions, etc.

    Cost of Insurance

    Speeding can be very costly as it results in tickets that stay on your record for about three years. Insurance companies charge a high premium from drivers who have a bad driving record, hence it is important to be aware of the four major speed laws in California and follow them.

    How Can I Fight a Ticket?

    Based on your driving history, the court may give you the option to opt for a traffic school. It may be a good option as it does not only clear your driving record but can also be an excellent way to save money.

    In some cases, you will have no option but to seek the help of a lawyer to represent your case. The lawyer will listen to your situation and present a case to highlight your point of view and try to bring your sentence/fine down and get the point removed from your record.

    Timing is very important when it comes to such cases. The court notice will usually have a date that you must keep in mind and apply by if you want to challenge a ticket. Scan the document carefully and make sure to never miss a deadline.