California Speed Laws

California has two types of speed laws:

  • Basic Speed Law (California Vehicle Code Section 22350)
  • Maximum Speed Law (California Vehicle Code Section 22349)

Basic Speed Law
Under the Basic Speed Law, you are required to use common sense and drive at a safe speed based on your surrounding environment such as current weather conditions, the current traffic situation, current road conditions and other reasonable considerations, even though the speed limit sign has a different speed limit.

night bad weather

For example, if the weather condition is not good, and most vehicles at the freeways are slowing down and driving at 45 mph, even though the freeway's speed limit is 65 mph, you are required to drive 45 mph because that is the safe speed limit for the current condition.

Regardless of the posted speed limit, you will need to slow down and base your speed depending on the following factors:

  • The traffic condition and speed of other vehicles on the road (e.g., if the highway is busy and everyone is slowing down, you also need to slow down).
  • Road surface conditions (e.g., if the road is wet, slippery, rough, or graveled, you need to drive at the speed that brings about a safer condition and provides you with better control of your vehicle).
  • Weather conditions (e.g., if it is raining, foggy, snowing, windy, or dusty, you need to slow down to a speed that bring about a safer condition and provide you a better control of your vehicle).
  • If there are children or pedestrians nearby, walking on the side of the road or crossing the street, you need to slow down and prepare to stop.
  • If there are bicyclists riding in the same lane as your vehicle, you need to slow down to avoid a possible collision.

Maximum Speed Law
Under the maximum speed law, it is illegal to drive over the speed limit that is posted on the streets or highways.

Look out for the posted speed limit signs and do not speed over the posted limit signs.

speed limit 65mph

  • The majority of California highways have the speed limit of 65 mph.
  • Some newer highways raised the speed limit to 70 mph for certain vehicles; these highways have a posted speed limit sign of 70 mph.
  • Two-lane undivided highways have a speed limit of 55 mph unless a posted sign indicates otherwise.
  • Other kinds of roads will have speed limits posted.

Remember, the higher your speed is, the longer it takes to stop your vehicle. And accidents that happen at a higher speed are much more fatal.

Point to Ponder - A collision at 60 mph has four times the force of a collision at 30 mph (and not twice as much).

maximum minimum speed limit

Minimum Speed Law
There are also minimum speed limits that are in place to avoid accidents. While you should never speed, you should also not drive so slowly that you become a hazard for other drivers.

Driving in a way that blocks other drivers or interferes with them traveling at a normal speed is against the law.