Speed Laws

What is the basic speed law? What is the maximum speed limit? Is there a minimum speed limit? And what is a prima facie speed limit? If you have trouble answering these questions, you're not alone. Many drivers confuse the various California speed laws with each other and those from other states. Here's a refresher:

Basic Speed Law

This is truly basic, and says that you must not drive faster than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for things like weather, visibility, and traffic and road conditions. What it means is that you must always use judgement and consider prevailing conditions instead of simply driving the speed limit. You could get a ticket for driving at a speed less than the speed limit if, in the judgement of the officer, your speed was unsafe for the current conditions.

Prima Facie Speed Limits Prima facie limits are basically default limits, meaning you are required to obey them unless other factors necessitate higher or lower speeds. Any posted speed limit is a prima facie limit, as are the following:

  • 15 mph at railroad crossings and on approaches to low-visibility intersections.
  • 25 mph in business and residence districts, in school zones, and when passing senior centers.

Maximum Speed Limit This law establishes the following maximum speed limits which, of course, are overruled by any prima facie limits and the basic speed law:

  • 55 mph on two lane undivided highways unless a higher limit is posted.
  • 65 mph on all other highways unless a higher limit is posted.
  • 70 mph only on those highways where it is posted.

Minimum Speed Law

You must not stop or drive so slow as to block or impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic, except for safety or legal reasons.

There are actually many more laws relating to speeding and speed limits. Contact the Sheriff's Department or City Traffic Engineer for further information.