Speeding violations are one of the most frequent traffic citations issued in the US. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that speeding causes approximately 10,000 fatal auto accidents each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 alone, speeding was responsible for almost 30 percent of all deadly traffic accidents.
A driver is considered to be “speeding” when traveling above the posted speed limit or at a speed that makes operating a motor vehicle unsafe for given road conditions. Unsafe speed leads to dangerous consequences like:
- Losing control of the vehicle.
- Reducing the motorist’s reaction time.
- Decreasing the efficiency of the passengers’ protection features.
- Increasing the distance needed to safely stop a moving car.
- Dramatically intensifying the severity of a car crash and the resulting damagesor injuries.
All of the above aggravate in case of driving through extreme weather or on hazardous roadways. Most speeding violations are considered infractions rather than criminal offenses. They usually carry a fine, might impact the ability to obtain a driver's license, and could increase car insurance rates, but they rarely result in jail time or criminal punishments.
Types of Speeding
There are three main types of speeding laws:
- Basic speed rules - require drivers to travel at a speed that is “prudent and reasonable”.
- Presumed or “prima facie” speed limits – featured in every state’s traffic code. They depend on location (residential zone vs. business district) and highway type.
- Maximum or “absolute” speed limits - maximum speed limits apply to highways and might vary for different types of vehicles. For instance, in Oregon, the absolute speed limit on most interstate highways is 55 mph for trucks and 65 mph for other vehicles.
Speed Limits State-By-State
In the United States, speed limits are individually set by each state and typically vary from an urban low of 25 miles per hour to a rural high of 85 miles per hour. They’re usually posted in multiples of 5 mph, occasionally with minimum limits or lower limits for trucks and nighttime. The average maximum speed limit in the country is 69.8 mph. Some jurisdictions force a minimum speed limit of 40mph to secure a safe flow of traffic on freeways.
- The highest posted speed limit in the US is 85 mph and can exclusively be found on the Texas State Highway 130 (SH 130).
- The highest speed limits are generally 75–80 mph (121–129 km/h) in the inland Western States, Louisiana and Arkansas, and 70 mph in the inland Eastern States and on the West Coast.
- Portions of the Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming road networks have 80 mph posted limits.
- Next, it’s 65–70 mph for the Eastern Seaboard, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
- 60 mph is the maximum limit in Hawaii, while for The District of Columbia, it’s 55 mph.
Speeding Tickets and Punishments – Highest and Lowest Penalties
Among the states with the highest speeding ticket values are Virginia, Georgia, and New Jersey:
- Virginia has one of the strictest laws on speeding - exceeding the 80 mph limit could force a driver to pay a $2500 fine and send him to prison for one year;
- Georgia doesn’t hold back from putting reluctant drivers in jail and applying a speeding penalty of $1000 for first-time speeding offenders;
- New Jersey, known for collecting around $30,000 per mile in fees, could issue a speeding ticket limited to $420, but as soon as someone exceeds the admitted limit with 10 mph, it’s classified as “racing” and the fine is double.
On the opposite side, the states with the lowest speeding ticket amounts are North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Tennessee, Idaho, where:
- Speeders are fined from $20 to $100 (or $230 in Colorado), and an extra $10 for going 10 mph over the limit.
- Drag racing still get higher punishments, and potentially jail time (in Tennessee).
- First-timers have the highest penalties of up to $600.
- Extra charges also apply for speeding near schools or construction sites.
“Criminal” or “Excessive” Speeding
To qualify as “Criminal Speeding”, any of the following circumstances must occur:
- The motorist speeds over 85 mph.
- The driver goes over an excess of 35 mph around school crossings.
- The alleged speed is at least 26 mph beyond the conventional limit.
- Driving 20 mph above the posted speed limit in residential and commercial areas.
This offense (also known as “Excessive speeding”) can send drivers to jail for 30 days while forcing them to pay up to $500 in fines, as well as stripping them of the privilege of driving.
To stay on the safe side, use our instant driving records search tool to access past or current speeding records that could affect you or someone you know. Within seconds, you’ll access the relevant information you need from the comfort of your home.