You are driving along south-bound, State Route 99 near Florin Road in Sacramento and it is raining heavily. You had decided to take your mom on an errand, and she is sitting in the front passenger seat of your 2020 automobile equipped with the latest equipment. She offers you directions to your destination. She doesn’t trust your car’s built-in, GPS navigational system. After all, in her day, illustrative road maps, a roadside gas station and an innate sense of direction were used to determine the proper route of travel, and it worked.
As you are driving the posted speed limit of 65 mph, traffic is slowing about 1/4 of a mile up the road. You make no attempt to slow your vehicle in anticipation of the slowed traffic ahead and rainy conditions. Your mother immediately exclaims, “Hey, you better slow down.” You respond in frustration, “Mom, I’m driving the speed limit.” Mom then screams, “Who cares, you are driving way too fast for conditions!” You whisper to yourself, “I’m driving legally. I am not traveling over the speed limit.”
Of course, mom is probably correct. The fact that you may be driving 65 mph, the posted speed limit, doesn’t mean that you are legally operating your car. California’s “Basic Speed Law” (California Vehicle Code section 22350) states, “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.”
Here, the rainy weather and slowing traffic 1/4 mile ahead may not force you to reduce the speed of your car. Yet, given the traffic conditions, the reasonable driver would likely be slowing his or her vehicle in anticipation of the traffic congestion. Thus, you are technically in violation of California law when driving 65 mph given existing traffic conditions. This violation can be used against you should you become involved in a car accident while violating the Basic Speed Law or may even trigger a traffic citation.
At Curtis Legal Group, when appropriate, we hire accident reconstruction experts to determine whether a driver was operating his or her vehicle in compliance with the Basic Speed Law. This fact may be important in determining who is at fault for a motor vehicle accident. Even though a traffic collision report may note that a driver was driving within the posted speed limit, that driver may still be in violation of the Basic Speed Law. Many lawyers miss this issue entirely. Call the Heavy Hitters at 1-800-LAW-3080 to have your accident analyzed and reviewed.