The speed limit, as we know it today, is an invention of the early 20th century. Before this time, there were no regulations about how fast people could go.
There is a common perception that we can exceed speed limits by 10% and still not receive a fine, but this may or may not be the case, as we’ll see later in this article. There are separate rules for each state and whether or not to issue a fine is usually left to the police officer who catches you speeding. Officially, in Florida, you can drive at 6 mph higher than the set speed limit without being fined, and this may be as much as 10 mph depending on the police officer who catches you.
There is also a possibility that breaking the speed limit by a certain amount can lead to you facing criminal charges. This changes according to the state in which you exceed the speed limit.
You can go up to 12 miles per hour over the speed limit in some states, but in others, there is no excess allowed. It is safer to drive faster on a highway than on a country road. In many states, you can go faster than the speed limit to overtake. Speeding in residential or school areas is not an option.
Let’s take a look at how fast over the speed limit it is possible to go in different situations.
What is the Speed Limit on a Highway?
On a highway in the United States, generally, the speed limits are between 55 mph and 70 mph. The highest speed limit is 85 mph on a stretch of highway near Austin, Texas. The lowest speed limit is just 30 mph in American Samoa.
Although the above maximum speed limits are generally accurate, for trucks and for night travel some states set different speed limits, normally lower than the general limits above.
A speeding offense normally means a fine of about $150, but this can vary enormously from state to state. Virginia has very high fines and penalties for speeding offenses. If you are fined for speeding here it may cost you as much as $2500 if you exceed 80 mph. You’ll also get a one-year jail sentence added to that. So, if you’re considering how fast you can go over the speeding limit, be aware of the local laws, and definitely Virginia is not the place to go faster than you should.
Speeding is a serious matter and it should never be taken lightly. With so many dangers around us, it is best to take precautions and slow down when you see the flashing lights of a police car or even if you don’t!
What is the Speed Limit on a Country road?
Many people confuse the speed limits on highways with the limits on country roads. This limit applies to roads where there are no posted signs about other limits.
Country roads are less safe for a number of reasons and this will limit how fast you can drive on them. Even though the speed limit may be, say, 40 mph on a country road, driving above that could be safe if you are on a straight section with no oncoming traffic during the daytime, but imagine the dangers of driving over this limit on a sharp corner with many cars coming towards you in the opposite direction.
So, unlike on a highway, it is not wise to drive over the speed limit for purely safety reasons. On a highway driving fast is more about the risk of getting a speeding ticket.
Other speed limits exist for mountain roads, residential areas, business areas, and school zones, depending on the state where you are driving.
Again, generally, specific areas in a community may have a maximum speed limit for drivers of approximately 30 or 40 mph, to protect pedestrians and children who might be crossing the street at that time. So going faster than the speed limit in these areas can endanger the lives of others and is therefore totally irresponsible.
The general approach to setting speeds for both urban and rural roads is to use engineering practices to determine safe speeds given available information about traffic volumes, driving conditions, and the accident potential of the road concerned. They are guides to how fast it is normally safe to drive on any stretch of road. It is sometimes possible to go much faster than the limit safely, but we need to consider the consequences and risks of doing this.
How Fast Can You Drive Over the Speed Limit Without Being Fined?
Now we come to myth and fact. Common myths include that you cannot be fined for speeding if you are within 10% of the maximum speed limit, or if you are only exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph. The actual rule, otherwise known as the absolute speed limit, is that you cannot drive faster than the maximum speed limit shown on local road signs. Here, in law, there is no tolerance at all.
In practice, though, each state may relax these rules, or allow the judgment of a police officer to enforce the law as he or she sees fit. As a result, a police officer can even fine you if you are driving at less than the speed limit if he or she thinks you were driving too fast for the conditions at the time. So, care needs to be taken when trying to interpret these rules and stay within the law.
According to Motorist.org, the most difficult place to drive too fast and escape a fine is Florida, while the state where the likelihood of getting fined for speeding is the lowest in Montana.
How Fast Can You Go Over The Speed Limit and Not Be Fined on Roads with a Speed Camera?
This will change according to where you are in the US. For example, in Chicago speed cameras automatically trigger a speeding ticket at 6mph above the speed limit. So if you go 46 mph in a 40 mph speed restricted area, you will be fined automatically (Krydler Law)
Here are some other statistics for different areas of the USA:
Area and Speed when the camera fines you
Washington DC 10 mph over the limit
Montgomery 11 mph over the limit
Maryland 12 mph over the limit
New York 0 mph over the limit
Georgia 0 mph over the limit
Chicago 6 mph over the limit
Florida 6-10 mph over the limit
How Fast Can You Go Over The Speed Limit When Overtaking?
Sometimes there is a permissible excess over the speed limit that applies to anyone when passing or overtaking another vehicle. Probably this is because in order to overtake someone you have to speed up, overtake and then reduce your speed after you have moved past the vehicle in front of you. This rule obviously does not allow you to go crazy fast in order to overtake those in front. That would be completely reckless and very dangerous!
Some of the states which allow an increase in speed to overtake include Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota, and Washington. This rule is usually applied to two-lane highways with a speed limit of 55 mph and above. In many other states speeding up while overtaking is not allowed except for certain situations according to the police officer’s discretion.
How Fast Can You Drive Before Facing Criminal Charges?
Details of criminal charges you may face and how fast you can go without facing them vary according to the state. California, for example, says this:
Driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit on a freeway, or 20 miles an hour more than the speed limit on a highway or other road is a criminal offense. You can be charged with reckless driving if you have been speeding excessively, though this is a judgment that is made by the police officer. To face this charge you must be judged to have intentionally endangered the safety of others.
Criminal charges for going faster than the speed limit vary from state to state but can include jail time. In California, reckless driving convictions can carry a 60-day jail penalty in addition to any fine or license suspension.
As a general rule, in the US you can be jailed for exceeding 80 mph. Going this fast is considered reckless driving and if you are found guilty of this, you could go to jail for one year.
If you drive fast in order to race another driver, it is a criminal offense which is termed “an exhibition of speed”. In some states, this offense is merely a traffic violation, whereas in other states it is treated as a more serious offense that can be punishable by jail, suspension of license, 6 months probation or a fine of up to $500.
An example of how criminal charges for speeding may be applied is Arizona. In Arizona, there are two categories of traffic violations:
- Civil Violation
- Criminal Speeding
Civil violation is going faster than the speed limit and usually is punished by receiving a speeding ticket. On the other hand, criminal speeding is reckless driving and this may include any of the following:
- Exceeding the speed limit by 20mph
- Going more than 45mph in a business or residential area where no speed limit is signposted
- Driving faster than 35mph in a school zone (where the speed limit is normally only 15mph)
Despite the seriousness of criminal speeding in Arizona, it is not classed as a felony unless you do something else that is criminal such as a hit and run for instance.
Criminal speeding is a misdemeanor and will remain on your record and not be removed.
How Fast Can You Exceed the Speed Limit Before You Get a Driving Ban?
This will usually be dependent on the driving rules in the state where you are when you exceed the speeding limit. In some states, you can receive a warning, in others a fine and in some with really tough laws, certain speeds may carry the penalty of a driving ban.
License revocation varies a great deal from state to state, so let’s start with the toughest state of all for driving restrictions, North Carolina.
In North Carolina, you can have your driving license suspended for going over the speed limit by 15 mph, above a speed of 55 mph. You would be banned from driving for 30 days in this case. This is generally the case in the United States as a whole, although there may be some exceptions, such as Montana, which actually has NO daytime speed limit!
One important thing to know about these laws in North Carolina is that, if you normally live in this state ANY violation of speeding limits committed outside of the state will also incur a suspension in North Carolina. In other words, the penalty will follow you when you return to the state.
Also, if you exceed the speed limit by 15 mph again within one year and live in North Carolina, you will get a ban for 60 days. This is also true if you are judged to have broken the speed limit by 15 mph and also driven recklessly.
How Fast Can You Safely Drive on a Highway?
Highways in the US are generally limited to a maximum speed of about 55 mph, but rural interstates have higher speed limits perhaps as much as 65-70 mph. Four-lane divided highways have a speed limit of 65 mph. As we mention in the next section on country roads, there are a number of other factors to consider when driving safely. These factors can lower or increase how fast you can drive safely on a highway. Often, you may see a temporary restriction on a highway, for example, due to poor weather and visibility conditions. In these situations, it is absolutely unsafe to drive faster than the displayed warning.
You can drive much faster on a highway and be safer than you would be on a country road. One reason for this is that it is not so much driving fast that causes accidents, rather as this report shows, it is the changing of speed and vehicles passing each other that causes most accidents to occur. In other words, human reactions and decisions to changing speed and maneuvering the vehicle are where driving becomes unsafe.
In actual fact, the speed limits chosen are arbitrary and if everyone was traveling at a higher speed on good highways, then it probably wouldn’t be a problem. So, the answer to the question of how fast you can travel on a highway safely is dependent on several factors, such as mentioned before but could be much higher than the speed limits set. With today’s modern vehicles, even 100 or 120mph can be relatively safe, that is until something happens suddenly on the road ahead. The problem with driving fast then is that the time it will take you to stop will increase and also the distance your vehicle will travel after you realize you need to slow down or stop to avoid what is ahead of you.
One factor which above all affects how fast over the speed limit it is safe to drive on a highway is the number of vehicles on the road. More traffic equals more risk of accidents and less room between vehicles. Technically, you should leave enough space in front of your vehicle to be able to stop suddenly if the vehicles ahead of you suddenly slow down. The faster you drive, the more time and distance you need to slow down and stop. So, on an empty highway, you could probably safely go over the speed limit by 20 mph or more, whereas in the rain, poor visibility, or in crowded traffic exceeding the speed limit will likely be completely unsafe.
How Fast Can you Safely Drive on a Country Road?
This actually depends on so many factors such as:
- The quality of the road
- How steep or windy the road is
- Where it is (are there houses or crossings nearby?)
- The condition of your vehicle
- The weather conditions and visibility
- The model and type of vehicle you are driving
- Your driving ability
- The time of day and position of the sun
Therefore, we can see that although the speed limit can guide you, there are many other factors to consider as to how fast you can drive safely.
A vehicle, when driven recklessly and fast, is a dangerous weapon that can threaten others’ lives and also put you in danger, so think twice about going faster than the speed limit even if it does seem safe to do so.
It’s just not worth trying to go over the speed limit and attempting to avoid the consequences. Much better to drive safely and in control so that you avoid speeding tickets or criminal charges that can become black marks against your good name and stay with you for a very long time.