“Basic Speed Law” under CVC 22350

California law provides for a “basic speed law” contained in CVC 22350 which provides:

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 on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

Posted speed limits in California are primarily established to protect the general public from the unreasonable behavior of reckless, unreliable, or otherwise dangerous drivers. Speed limits in California provide law enforcement with the means to identify and apprehend violators of the basic speed law.

Determining the Prevailing Speed of Reasonable Drivers

The basic fundamentals for establishing speed limits recognize that the majority of drivers behave in a safe and reasonable manner, and that the normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable driver should be considered legal. Speed limits established on these fundamentals conform to the consensus of those who drive the highway as to what speed is reasonable and safe, and are not dependent on the judgment of one or a few individuals. A speed survey is usually used to determine the prevailing speed of reasonable drivers.

Speed limits are also established to advise of conditions which may not be readily apparent to a reasonable driver. For this reason, before determining speed limits, the following must be analyzed:

  • collision history;
  • roadway conditions;
  • traffic characteristics; and
  • adjacent land use.

Speed limit changes are usually coordinated with visible changes in roadway conditions or roadside developments. Unusually short zones of less than one‐half mile in length should be avoided to reduce confusion.

Additionally, it is generally accepted that speed limits cannot be successfully enforced without voluntary compliance by a majority of drivers. Consequently, only the driver whose behavior is clearly out of line with the normal flow of traffic is usually considered a violator for enforcement purposes.

Additional Resources

Speeding Tickets in the San Francisco Traffic Division – Visit the website for the Superior Court of California in the County of San Francisco to learn more about the traffic division located at the Hall of Justice in Room 145 at 850 Bryant Street in San Francisco, CA 94103. The phone number for the traffic division is (415) 551-8550 and the office is open from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday.