Speed limit signs

Watch for Speed Limit Signs

Could you be unaware that you’re speeding? According to retired police captain J. S. Clevenger, it is possible and happens often. By knowing where speed limits change, you can monitor your speed. Being informed can help you avoid a dreaded speeding ticket.

According to Clevenger, most states require a speed limit change where the sign is posted. He says many people believe they can increase speed when the sign comes into view. This is not true. For example, you are speeding if you’re in a 45 mph zone, see a 55 mph sign ahead, and then increase your speed to 55 before you reach the sign. By law, the speed limit does not change until you reach the sign. Therefore, if the speed limit is increasing, you can’t increase speed until you reach, or get beyond, the sign. If the speed is reducing, then you must decrease your speed before you reach the sign.

Abrupt Changes

He also notes that speed limits do not have to reduce gradually; the limit can go from 55 mph to 35 mph in a matter of a few feet. There may also be frequent changes from area to area along certain roads and highways. For this reason, you should always be aware of any posted signs.

Many times you will see a warning sign telling you that the speed limit will change ahead. Start slowing down when you get to the warning sign.

General Rules and Local Speed Ordinance

If you don’t see any speed limit signs, the city may have a speed ordinance set for that particular area. Look for signs, or check with local law enforcement, to determine speed limits for that area. Some areas are monitored closely; this is often the case in school and work zones. In most states, school and work zones incur heavier fines for violations. You should be aware of these zones to avoid problems.

When traveling in unfamiliar states, check with authorities to determine speeding laws and posting regulations. General speed limits and speeding laws can be found in the state driver’s manual or driver handbook found online. Clevenger notes that laws can vary from state to state; therefore, learn these rules before traveling to avoid any speeding violations.

Florida Example

This is an example of the “standard” speed limits in Florida:

20 mph Speed Limit Sign The standard speed limit in school zones is 20 mph.
30 mph Speed Limit Sign The standard speed limit in business or residential areas, and municipal speed areas is 30 mph.
70 mph Speed Limit Sign The standard speed limit on rural interstates (where posted) and limited access highways is 70 mph.
55 mph Speed Limit Sign The standard speed limit on all other roads and highways is 55 mph

If you are studying for the written knowledge test, prepare for speed limit questions on learner’s permit tests and driver’s license exams.

Basic Speed Rule

You must also be aware of the basic speed rule; 65 mph does not always mean 65 mph! A posted speed limit sign shows the fastest speed you may drive under ideal conditions. When conditions require so, you must slow down. You may never drive faster than is safe for existing conditions. This is known as the basic speed law and exists in all states.


Depending on your state, Clevenger says that sentencing laws may vary. For example, the state of North Carolina can fine you, require a court appearance, require traffic school attendance, suspend your license, or impose a prison term; fines will vary according to speed clocked over the limit, number of violations, and validity of current driver’s license. You may even need to hire an attorney.

If you are issued a violation when out of state, you may be required to pay a fine during the traffic stop. If unable to pay, you may be forced to appear before a court official to post a security bond; this will ensure your appearance in court. Since each state varies in fines and sentencing, check state laws to learn about current laws and regulations.

Knowledge is the Key

Being informed can help avoid speeding violations. By learning the regulations in your state, you can be aware of reductions and increases when necessary. This information can help you monitor your speed to prevent any unpleasant warnings or citations.