Summary of State Speed Laws Fifth Edition: Current as of January 1, 2001

This publication is distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the interest of information exchange. The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Department of Transportation or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contests or use thereof. If trade or manufacturers' name or products are mentioned, it is because they are considered essential to the object of the publication and should not be construed as an endorsement. The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. introduction | table of contents


Introduction | Summary Table on Aggressive Driving Laws | Summary Table of State Speed Laws |
Summary Table of Special Sanctions for Exceeding the Speed Limit in Either a Construction or School Zone | State By State Analysis | Appendix


Introduction

PURPOSE

This Summary reports ONLY the status of State statutes (or regulations) that are concerned with either speed limit or speed related violations. Local laws are not reported. Unless otherwise indicated, the status of the State laws (or regulations) reported is January 1, 2001.

ORGANIZATION

The Summary is divided into three areas: (1) Introduction; (2) Summary Tables; and, (3) a State by State Analysis. The State by State Analysis is organized by State and then by specific legal topics. The State by State Analysis includes code and, where needed, case law citations; these should help individuals conducting additional research in this area of the law. The State by State Analysis can be used to facilitate the comparison of State laws in the subject areas.

The Appendix, using the State by State Analysis' format, gives the Uniform Vehicle Code's provisions on speed limit and speed related offenses.

EXPLANATIONS

Basic Speed Rule. The Basic Speed Rule requires vehicle operators to drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent. As a corollary to this rule, State laws usually provide that "every person shall drive at a safe and appropriate speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing, when approaching an going around and curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions." See Uniform Vehicle Code 11-801.

Minimum Speed Rule. The Minimum Speed Rule prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. However, in order to avoid a possible conflict with the basic speed rule, the law normally provides that a slow speed is permissible when "reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law." See Uniform Vehicle Code 11-805(a).

Racing on the Highway. "Racing on the highway" is usually defined as driving "any vehicle in any race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, exhibition of speed or acceleration, or for the purpose of making a speed record." See Uniform Vehicle Code 11-809(a).

Drag Racing. Either as part of the offense of highway racing or as a separate statutory crime, the offense of "drag racing" is normally defined as "the operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speed in competitive attempt to outdistance each other, or the operation of one or more vehicles over a common selected course, from the same point to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such vehicles or vehicles within a certain distance or time limit." See Uniform Vehicle Code 11-809(b).

Reckless Driving. "Reckless driving" is normally defined as driving "any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." See Uniform Vehicle Code 11-901(a). Note: Speed is not necessarily a factor in this offense.

Statutory Speed Limit. A "statutory speed limit" is one specifically provided for under a State's traffic code (rules of the road). Such limits may vary by highway type (e.g., interstate) or by location (e.g., urban district). State laws may or may not require that these limits be posted.

Posted (Maximum) Speed Limit. Even thought specific speed limits may have been established via legislation, State laws usually allow either State or local authorities to set highway speed limits above or below the statutory ones. Prior to taking such action on any portion of a highway, the law normally requires that governmental authorities conduct a study to determine the safe speed limit for that part of the highway. State laws may also allow such authorities to specify different speed limits on all or selected highways (or portions thereof) either for various times of the day or for various types of vehicles (e.g., trucks).

Speed limits established under these laws are not effective until appropriate speed limit signs are posted on the highway. Caution: This Summary does not report the speed limits that have been established via such laws.

Speed Law Sanctions. Except as noted, the criminal and administrative (licensing) sanctions given are the same for any offense listed under the heading "Basis for a Speed Law Violation." Important: The fine sanctions listed in this Summary do not include court costs or bail schedule forfeitures.

Highway & Street. In order to insure that the terms "highway" and "street" are synonymous and interchangeable, many State laws defined both as "[t]he entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel." See Uniform Vehicle Code 1-127 & 1-183.

FEEDBACK & FUTURE EDITIONS

Requests for future editions of or comments about this Summary should be sent to:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Traffic Injury Control
Programs (NTS-10)
400 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Telephone: (202) 366-2729
FAX: (202) 366-2766 or (202) 493-2088.