# Speed limit vs. maximum speed

Signs not on the freeway tend to say “Speed Limit 45” (or whatever number), while freeway signs say “Maximum Speed 70”. I remember hearing once in traffic school in California that there is a difference between a “speed limit” and a posted “maximum speed”. I don’t recall what the difference was. It was something like “you may exceed the posted speed limit if it is reasonable and prudent, but you may not exceed the maximum speed”. Or something like that.

What is the legal difference between “speed limit” and “maximum speed”?

I don’t know how relevant this is to your situation, but in the UK, there are a few situations where a ‘maximum speed’ will be posted, quite apart from the posted ‘speed limit’ - typically this will be on tight bends and places where motorways merge (there’s one at the top of the M3, as you join it from the M25) - I can’t find any specific information on the actual enfocement of these max speeds, but the signage is based on the ‘speed limit’ signs, so I’d assume they are the same, but with the implied emphasis ‘it is specifically unsafe to exceed this speed’.

Here, the regulatory signs are black and white and rectangular. Advisory signs are yellow and black, and often “diamond” shaped (square sign rotated 45°). “Speed limit” and “maximum speed” signs are black on white and rectangular. A sign with a recommended maximum speed would often have an icon of what’s ahead, such as a curved or twisty arrow, with a speed number, and would be black on yellow.

If you mean the white rectangular signs, these are advisory speeds only (remember, the shape of the sign is part of the information: rectangle = information, circle = instruction)

My (somewhat uncertain) memory of the signs I described is that they were rectangular, but the design did actually contain a red circle with the max speed in it. I’m could well be misremembering them though.

Here is the law in California:[ul][li]“Maximum Speed” is a numeric speed, specified in miles per hour in the California Vehicle Code, which you may not exceed under any circumstances. There are currently three numeric maximum speed laws in California: a 70 mph max. speed for some rural freeways that are rated for such high speeds (CVC sec 22356), a 55 mph max. speed for 2-lane undivided roadways (CVC sec 22349(b)), and a blanket 65 mph max. speed everywhere else (CVC sec 22349(a)).[/li]
[li]A “Speed Limit”, however, isn’t a law. Posted speed limits, called “prima facie limits” in the California Vehicle Code, are the suggested maximum safe speed for that particular stretch of road under normal driving conditions. The law in force here is CVC sec 22350, sometimes called the Basic Speed Law, which states that “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.”[/ul][/li]However, if you drive faster than a posted “Speed Limit,” the burden of proof will be on you to demonstrate to the court that your speed wasn’t a violation of the Basic Speed Law (cf. CVC 22351(b)).

Seems like not dying should pretty much cover that.

It says “Maximum Speed 70” instead of “Speed Limit 70” because on Interstate highways, there are really two speed limits.

You can probably find the “Minimum Speed 40” signs if you look hard enough. That, too, is a speed limit.

So anything that doesn’t kill me is reasonable and prudent? :dubious:

We get those in the Twin Cities, and they piss me off. What kind of idiot goes out onto the freeway, when people are whipping by at 70 mph, and says, “Yep, 35 mph, that’s my speed. Cruisin’ down the highway…”

In Ontario, the speed-limit signs simply say MAXIMUM 40 (or 100 or whatever). There is often a little km/h tag at the bottom.

I always thought they chose the longer word MAXIMUM because it was the same in English and French.

Some U.S. States have Minimum Speed signs on their freeways, and other States don’t. When I was in Oklahoma, I saw “MINIMUM 40” signs on the freeway, for example – but I know that California does not have minimum speed signs.

In fact, vehicles in the right-most lane on a California freeway are not subject to any minimum speed restriction that I know of. They have to have one of those orange triangles on the back if they can’t go faster than 25 mph, but as far as I know, slow-pokes are perfectly permissible in the right-hand lane. (In other lanes, you’re required to keep up with traffic. In the left-hand lane, you’re required to get out of the way of any cars behind you who want to go faster – even if you’re already driving at or above the Maximum Speed.)

[QUOTE=Johnny L.A.]
I remember hearing once in traffic school in California that there is a difference between a “speed limit” and a posted “maximum speed”.

[QUOTE]

I wouldn’t bet on anything taught in a California Traffic Violator’s School, which is what I presume you’re talking about.

I’ve been to many of these in my decades here, and without exception, they only exist for one reason, to collect your tuition. Any standards for the qualifications of the instructors or the accuracy of the curriculum are mere formalities. It would be just as effective and far more efficient if they’d just take your money and issue you a certificate, and not make you sit there and listen to their mix of DMV license test booklet facts, urban legends, and made-up BS for eight hours.

The only time I ever found a curriculum that was reasonable and effective was on an online course. And it was a nominal 8-hour course that I completed in 3 hours, so everyone was happy!

Britain has occassional ‘minimum speed’ signs, but the only one that I can think of off-hand is in the Dartford and Blackwall tunnels under the Thames. As for motorways (and indeed most dual carriageways), the road regulations simply say ‘no stopping’. Although the police would certainly have the power to intervene for unduly slow driving (under ‘causing and obstruction’ terms, although anecdotal evidence suggests they’ll presume the driver is drunk) - even though it may be faster than eg a tractor on a dual carriageway.

[Dave Barry] And for some reason, it seems nearly all of them wear hats. [/Dave Barry]

Well, I for one sometimes choose to drive slower than the speed limit in order to save gas along with wear and tear on my car. But my version of “slower than the speed limit” is 54 MPH at minimum. I have a sense of common courtesy, but I probably wouldn’t ever choose anything below 40 MPH even if there were NO other drivers to incovenience.
For the record, I drive IN THE RIGHT LANE when I’m going 55 in a 65 zone.

He commuted every day on the Dan Ryan Expressway. He drove between 40 and 45. He always dove in the left-most lane because he was afraid of cars coming and going for the exit and entry ramps.

He wore a hat like this.

We were scared half to death to be in the car with him.