California Speed Limit
What is the California speed limit?
California traffic laws define the maximum speed that any motorist travelling on California roadways can legally drive. Driving over the California speed limit can result in a traffic citation, fine, license suspension, or even arrest.
California requires drivers to drive at a speed that is "reasonable and prudent" given a logical analysis of the road conditions, including factors such as road grade, weather, and traffic. If the "reasonable and prudent" speed in a given situation is lower then the posted speed limit, a driver can be held accountable for negligent speed if their speed is higher then the "reasonable and prudent" speed but still below the posted limit.
Rural freeways including I-5, I-8, I-10, I-15, I-40, U.S. 101, and SR 99, have 70 mph speed limits. I-80's maximum speed limit is 65 mph speed limit due to the urban and mountainous terrain the interstate passes through. The maximum speed limit in Los Angeles is 55 mph, including freeways.
California has a supplemental speed limit of 15 or 25 mph in school zones, which is only active when children are present in the area.
There are a total of 16 states with higher maximum speed limits than California.
California Speed Limit - Rural Freeways
The maximum speed limit on rural freeways and interstates in California is 70 miles per hour. "Rural freeways" are the sections of major highways that passing through rural and sparsely populated areas, and can safely allow faster driving. Rural highways will generally have the highest legal speed limits in California.
California Speed Limit - Urban Freeways
The maximum speed limit on urban freeways and interstates in California is 65 miles per hour. "Urban freeways" are the segments of large highways that are located within a city or densely populated area's limits, and are generally more prone to traffic congestion and other hazards.
In most cases, the freeway's speed limit will return to the rural freeway speed limit of 70 mph after the road passes through the most densely populated area.
California Speed Limit - Divided Roads
The maximum speed limit on divided roads in California is 65 miles per hour. Divided roads must have a concrete median or buffer zone separating opposite lanes, and may have one or more lanes going in the same direction.
Unlike many states that allow higher speed limits on divided roads, California has the same maximum speed limit for both divided and undivided roads.
California Speed Limit - Undivided Roads
The maximum speed limit on rural undivided roads roads in California is 65 miles per hour. This category includes most small backroads and local routes.
When these routes pass through a residential or heavily-trafficked area, the speed limit will usually drop to 30 mph or below.
California Speed Limit - Residential Areas
The maximum speed limit on residential roads in California is 30 miles per hour. Residential roads have the most potential for speed-based accidents and collisions, so residential districts tend to have the lowest speed limits with the most strict enforcement policies.
When driving in residential areas be on the lookout for school, hospital, and construction zones. These areas often have even lower speed limits, with strict enforcement and heavy fines for speeding.
California Speeding Tickets and Citations
Driving over the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions, or failing to obey special speed limit zones can result in a California speeding ticket, points on your license, and even a license suspension or revocation for repeat offenders.
California highway patrol officers monitor traffic using radar, speed traps, and cameras. Radar technology is not exact, and as a general rule an officer will not pull you over for exceeding the speed limit by less than 5 mph (75 mph on a rural freeway, or 70 mph on an rural undivided road). However, any speeds in excess of the posted speed limits can be considered a ticketable offence.