Jerry Schlund | Understanding the Speed Laws

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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The Signal recently published a report regarding changes on some of our street speed postings. Many people are not aware of our speed laws in California. There is a basic speed law and a maximum speed law. 

California Vehicle Code 22350 is the basic speed law. It states that 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, and the surface and width of the highway and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property. 

By law, one can legally drive over the posted speed limit if it’s safe. Example: A driver is traveling five or more mph over the posted limit. Was it an unsafe speed? The officer will form the opinion. It’s more likely that the officer will cite for around 10 or 15 mph or higher. Certain factors compound the hazard of the speed traveled. Was it a residential area, any intersecting streets, driveways, parked vehicles, curves in the roadway, pedestrians, foliage, wet streets, condition of the roadway. The officer also takes into consideration feet per second traveled and reaction time in braking at higher speeds. How about a driver traveling 40 in a posted 40 zone just as safe as can be and drives into a fog bank with visibility now limited to less than 50 feet ahead? To continue at 40 would now be considered an unsafe speed because of the change in conditions. We drive according to the conditions. 

The maximum speed law states no person may drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 mph unless posted (22349a VC). On a two-lane undivided highway the maximum speed is 55 mph unless posted (22349b VC). Safety is not a defense for traveling over the maximum speed limit. Keeping up with the flow of traffic is not a defense also. There are freeway signs that read, “Slower traffic keep right.” 

FYI: The speed limit in any residential or business district is 25 mph unless posted (22352b1 VC) and school zones also. The speed limit on any alley is 15 mph (22352a3 VC). Large semi trucks, and such, are subject to different speed laws and lane usage. 

It can get more technical but these are generally our speed laws. So drive very carefully, keeping in mind excessive speed contributes to most accidents, combined with impaired driving. 

There were 3,854 fatalities in California in 2022. 

Jerry Schlund 

Retired, LAPD Valley Traffic Division 


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