Speed limits are probably the last thing that comes to mind when traveling to a beautiful and exciting place such as the U.S. state of California. But, the state’s traffic authority sets out clear guidelines that must be followed to avoid getting a traffic ticket, points on your license, or, worse, jail time.
If you are moving to California from another state, visiting or relocating from another country, or simply driving through the state, understanding the speed limits in California is essential knowledge to have.
California, like many other states, requires that speed limits in California on state roadways are to be set at the maximum limit unless traffic and engineering studies indicate that the speed limit has to be changed due to safety reasons. The speed limits in California are set by the California Department of Transportation.
California has a “Basic Speed Law.” This law means you must never drive faster than is safe for current conditions. For example, if you are driving 50 mph in a 55 mph speed zone during a dense fog, you could still be cited for driving “too fast for conditions.” You may never legally drive faster than the posted speed limit, even if you think it is safe to do so.
So, you must keep in mind that, for the most part, the maximum speed limit is 65 mph on most highways, although depending on where you are, this could change and be as fast as 70 mph where posted. Always keep an eye on the road signs as you do not want to be caught and slapped with a hefty speeding fine.
What are the different California speed limits?
It is essential to familiarize yourself with the California speed limits for specific areas and regions within the state.
California speed limits by type of road and zone
- 15 mph in alleys, at blind intersections, and at blind railroad crossings.
- 25 mph in school zones.
- 25 in residential, and business districts.
- 55 mph is the maximum limit for two-lane undivided highways and for vehicles towing trailers.
- The majority of California’s highways have a maximum speed limit of 65 mph.
- Some highways have set their maximum speed limits to 70 mph, so keep an eye out!
As you can see, the maximum speed limit you can generally drive in California is 65 mph, however, some highways have increased their limits to 70 mph. Stay aware, and make sure to keep checking to see whether you are traveling at the correct and safe limit.
Penalties for breaching California speed limit laws
Speeding tickets and accumulative points are a natural occurrence when you go over the designated speed limits in California and get caught! Your job as a safe driver is to abide by the speed limit to not only avoid fines and point penalties but to potentially save lives and prevent unnecessary accidents.
Depending on the location of the speeding offense, if you receive a speeding ticket in California, you will likely pay a fine.
Summary of California Speeding Ticket Fines
- If you drive 1-15 mph over the limit you pay a fine starting from $35.
- If you drive 16-25 mph over the limit you pay a fine starting from $70.
- If you drive 26-99 mph you pay a fine starting from $100.
- Driving 100 mph or more over the limit will result in a minimum $200 fine with higher penalties if this is not your first driving offense.
- If you are caught speeding in a highway construction zone or maintenance area, your fine will increase by $35.
Your fines and potential court costs might differ depending on the location you are in when you commit the offense. The above base fees can be subject to additional fees that are imposed by the California courts. These come in the form of penalty assessments that are added to the base fine. So, if you are stopped and given a ticket in California, you might be subject to these additional fees.
California Penalty Assessment Fees
- State Penalty Assessment $100.00
- County Penalty Assessment $70.00
- DNA Penalty Assessment $50.00
- Court Facility Construction Penalty Assessment $50.00
- 20% Surcharge (allowed on all tickets) $20.00
- EMS Surcharge $8.00
As an example, if you are stopped for speeding and are assessed these additional fees on a 1-15 mph over limit charge, you may accrue fees up to $298.00 on a ticket that was originally for $35.00! Additional fees may be added on by the courts as well and other speeding violations may incur additional fees and penalties.
In addition to the above penalties and fines, your auto insurance will likely increase as you are caught for more driving offenses. Being sensible on the roads will save you a lot of money as well as lives.
The points system in California is relatively easy to follow
- If you are caught speeding, running a red light, changing lanes unsafely, or the cause of an accident you will have 1 point added to your license.
- If you are caught committing reckless driving, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, hit and run offenses, you will receive at least 2 points.
You can be considered a “negligent driver” for accumulating 4 or more points during a 12 month period, 6 or more points during a 24 month period, and 8 or more in a 36 month period. This may result in your license being suspended or revoked.
It is clear that road safety is of great importance to the people of California. You can play your part by knowing and observing the specified maximum California speed limit and various other speed limits.