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What is the speed limit on California roads?

When you study to take your driver’s exam in California, you memorize the rules of the road, including speed limits in school zones, neighborhoods and highways. Several years later, some of the limits have become ingrained, while others you may not remember at all. There may also be new laws and changes since you initially learned to drive.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Golden State employs a “basic speed law,” which adjusts to driving conditions. What this means is that drivers should limit speeds to whatever is safe. That does not mean just driving slower in a heavy fog. Even if you are under the speed limit, you may still be driving too fast for conditions and law enforcement officers may give you a ticket. Conditions to take into account when driving include:

  • Weather conditions, including rain, wind and dust
  • How heavy traffic is around you and how fast others are driving
  • Whether there are bicyclists or pedestrians along the side or crossing the road
  • The condition of the road, including rough patches, gravel and narrowness

Driving too slow is also a danger if you are blocking other drivers who are moving at a reasonable speed. If you are driving in bad weather or heavy traffic and are driving slower than others, stay out of the fast lane and always move right to let others pass you safely. Additional driving situations and how to navigate them include:

  • Large trucks, buses and vehicles that are towing another should use the lane that is farthest right
  • Speeds around schools are typically limited to 25 mph, and some may be as low as 15 mph
  • If a school bus stops and flashes red lights, drivers in both directions must stop until the lights are turned off
  • Drivers should slow to 15 mph in intersections with no stop signs and ones with blocked views
  • For railroad and light-rail crossings not controlled by gates or arms, the speed limit is 15 mph at all times

When animals are near or you see a sign for a deer crossing, slow down. If you can safely stop for one in the road, do so, but do not swerve to miss one or you may cause an accident. Finally, unless other speed limits are posted, 25 mph is the limit in business and residential areas.

This article features general information and should not be taken as legal advice.

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