By Logan Quirk
Safety must always be your priority whenever you are driving on the road. To ensure that everyone on the road is protected, the California vehicle code has set guidelines on the recommended speeds that drivers must follow.
While you may assume that the law sets a speed limit and all you need to do is not exceed it, that’s not exactly the case. Speeding laws are often more complicated than that, and they certainly are in the state of California.
You can quickly find yourself in a legal nightmare if you aren’t fully aware of what the speeding laws in California dictate. With that in mind, now is as good a time as any to further detail what those speeding laws are and what you need to do to make sure you do not get in trouble with the law.
What Are the Speed Limits in California?
To get things started, let’s first look at what the speed limits are in California. Speed limits can vary depending on where you’re driving.
If you’re making your way through most roads and thoroughfares in the state, the speed limit will almost always be 55 miles per hour. To be a bit more specific, the speed limit of 55 miles per hour is usually in effect in places with two-lane undivided highways. They also impose that speed limit on vehicles that are towing trailers, according to the Public Works Department of Los Angeles County.
Drivers looking to err on the side of caution and steer clear of any potential law violations should stick to that speed limit unless there is a sign nearby indicating that they can go faster.
Things are slightly different if you are going to drive on a highway. Instead of 55 miles per hour, the usual speed limit that applies to the majority of highways in California is 65 miles per hour.
Some freeways will allow drivers to go as fast as 70 miles per hour.
The best thing you can do while you’re behind the wheel is to keep your eyes peeled at all times so that you notice any speed limit signs.
Of course, if you do not exceed 55 miles per hour whenever you drive in California, that would be easy enough. That’s not the case, though, and there are other restrictions placed on how fast drivers can go to protect the safety of the people on the road as well as the pedestrians on the sidewalks.
What Is Vehicle Code 22350, and Why Is it Important?
As noted above, the speed limit set for drivers on California highways is usually 65 miles per hour. That speed limit should allow you to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time while also working as a protective measure.
However, you should know that the mentioned speed limit does not always apply.
According to California Vehicle Code 22350 VC, drivers need to exercise more caution and discretion when driving on the highway, given the conditions around them.
Here’s what California Vehicle Code 22350 VC specifically states: “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.”
The keyword there is “reasonable”, and it can be the source of confusion for a lot of drivers in the state.
So, how can you tell if you are driving at a “reasonable” speed?
The vehicle code already offers hints at what driving at a “reasonable speed” entails.
First off, you need to take into consideration the weather conditions while you are driving. If the rain is pouring heavily, going 65 miles per hour is not a good idea. It’s way too easy to lose control of your vehicle in that scenario because of the slippery surface beneath you.
Weather can also impact visibility. Dense fog can make it difficult for you to see surrounding vehicles even on a highway. Slow down a bit to avoid bumping into any of them and causing an accident.
Apart from the weather conditions and the condition of the road itself, you also have to be mindful of how crowded the highway is. Approaching the speed limit when you can see the busy highway is an example of unsafe driving, and you should avoid it.
Other factors that must be accounted for when you’re on the highway are animals or people who may be nearby while you are driving.
You should also slow down if another vehicle obstructs your view or if lights are shining directly into your sight. Those lights can have a huge impact on how you are driving so slow down to prevent any car accidents and violations of the law.
What Are Prima Facie Speed Limits?
To further promote safe and responsible driving throughout the state of California, the Department of Transportation may also set what is known as prima facie speed limits.
According to Cornell Law School, prima facie is an adverb that means “on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information.” They set these speed limits whenever they deem the existing speed limits of 70, 65, and 55 miles per hour as excessive.
Vehicle Code 22354 notes that these prima facie speed limits are necessary for facilitating the “reasonable and safe” movement of vehicles along certain roads and highways. Vehicle Code 22354 indicates that the prima facie speed limits start to take effect once they have put up signs.
You may encounter these prima facie speeding limits while you are driving through certain areas.
School zones are known for having these prima facie speed limits because they protect kids who may be playing or walking around who may not be paying attention to their surroundings. You may also find them in crowded residential areas.
Prima facie speed limits may also be set along railway crossings and intersections to better protect motorists.
Now, there’s an important point of distinction that needs to be highlighted when it comes to prima facie speed limits and the so-called absolute speed limits that are established by the law.
If they find you driving over the speed limit in any part of the state, you’re violating the law, and you will be penalized. That may not necessarily be the case if you exceed a prima facie speed limit.
They can cite you for violating the prima facie speed limit, but you can fight against that by showing you were still driving safely after considering the full context of what happened.
By the way, prima facie speed limits can be quite varied. You may see some that are as low as 15 miles per hour and others that go up to 50 miles per hour.
Is It a Violation to Drive Too Slowly on the Road?
Speed limits are not only about how fast you are going, they can also set them to prevent you from slowing down to the point where you may be impeding the progress of traffic.
They enacted the California Vehicle Code 22400 to keep drivers on highways from coming to a full stop for no reason. It also gives the Department of Transportation the power to declare a minimum speed limit.
Do note that there are exceptions to this law.
If the police ask you to pull over or signs say you need to slow down, you should do so. Construction sites will often have signs posted to protect the workers and the drivers as well.
What Are the Penalties You May Face if You Do Not Abide by the Speeding Limits?
There are four different ways in which they may penalize you if they find you have violated the speeding laws in California, and they are:
- Issuance of a speeding ticket
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Points added to your driving record
- Held responsible for an accident
Starting with the speeding tickets, the amount you will need to pay can vary depending on how fast you were going. The amounts start to skyrocket if you were driving over 100 miles per hour.
Along with paying a $500 fine, they may also suspend your driver’s license for up to a month. Repeat the offense a second time, and you may face a longer suspension along with a heftier $750 fine. If they catch you going over the speed limit again, the fine can climb up to $1000, and the suspension may last for an entire year.
In some ways, they can consider the addition of points as a harsher penalty. Aside from being the reason why you no longer have a spotless driving record, the points can also have long-term implications that can impact you significantly.
Get enough points on your driving record over a set period of time, and the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license. Suspension is not the only thing you need to worry about.
The points on your driving record can play a role in determining how much you pay for auto insurance. Expect the amount to increase along with the number of points on your record.
Points on a driving record may be the reason why a potential employer decides not to hire you.
Remember that driving records are public, meaning anyone can gain some insight into your behavior as a driver by paying a fee.
It can take a long time before you no longer feel the impact of the points on your driving record. If your points came from traffic violations such as speeding or making an illegal turn, the California Department of Motor Vehicles notes that they will stay on your record for thirty-nine months. Points that stem from a DUI citation or a hit-and-run incident will stay on your record for thirteen years.
Lastly, you can get hit with penalties, not because of your speeding, but because your speeding led to an accident. If your speeding led to property damage or someone getting hurt, you will likely be prosecuted and sentenced for the crime.
Speeding is an irresponsible act that can have negative ramifications for numerous parties. Avoid it altogether by being a safe and careful driver at all times.
Is There a Way to Legally Fight against Traffic Violations?
Earlier, we talked about how you can contest prima facie speeding violations, by being a safe driver even as you exceeded that speed limit. Prima facie speeding violations are not the only ones you can contest, though.
You can also contest if they found you in violation of an absolute speed limit. To fight that violation, you will need to show that either you were driving over the speed limit for a good reason or that you weren’t speeding at all.
Drivers can go over the speed limit if there is an emergency so you can use that defense. You can also attempt to show that the radar device a police officer used to track your speed was inaccurate.
How You Can Fight against Mistaken Speeding Violations
Even though you do have a legal avenue to challenge the validity of the charge against you, the reality is that it’s not easy to show that you didn’t commit a traffic violation once they charge you. Trying to make that claim on your own may be downright impossible.
You will need the help of legal professionals to get out of that tough spot.
Contact the lawyers at the Quirk Law Group if you want to give yourself a fighting chance against those accusations. They can help you come up with the right defense that will enable you to maintain a clean driving record, prevent your license from being suspended, and also save you from paying any fees.