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When Do I have to Drive Less Than the Speed Limit in California?



You have to be a little bit crazy to be a lawyer in California.  [Or at least think out of the box].  Why would a lawyer sue someone for going too fast UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT?    :]

California Vehicle Code § 22362

Lawyers in Lafayette handle many car accident cases in Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas.

We study the basic speed laws from the perspective of proving that our clients were in the right during an accident. It is important to recognize that even if someone is traveling at the speed limit they may be violating the law.  Figuring this out can be the difference between establishing 100% liabiilty against the other driver vs some split of responsibility.  

To start:

California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 22362 says that you have to obey the posted speed limits.

That’s the basic law but as an aside, when Dan Horowitz was a young lawyer he defended people who got traffic tickets.  One of the tools he used was to check to see if the second part of the law was followed by the government.

The law says:

This section applies only when appropriate signs, indicating the limits of the restricted zone, and the speed limit applicable therein, are placed by such agency within 400 feet of each end of such zone. The signs shall display the figures indicating the applicable limit ...   Back in time, you would actually seen Daniel with a tape measure walking along the road just hoping that it was 410 feet instead of 400.

Fast forward to now.  When we have a car accident client we look at the other side of the law. What vehicle code sections did the other driver violate? Some will be noted on the police report, but others may require an attorney to perform an legal analysis.

Violating the Law When Following the Speed Limit

We are highly suspicious of truck drivers.

Truck accidents are increasing because the level of skill and training for truck drivers has absolutely plummeted. We had a truck accident case which resulted in the death of our motorcycle rider client. The truck driver had failed two truck driving courses before being hired by the company whose truck he used to harm our client.

Whenever our clients are involved in accidents with trucks we analyze whether the trucks were driving too fast - even when they were traveling the speed limit. Remember that driving too fast doesn’t mean that you are only responsible for not stopping soon enough.

California Vehicle Code section 22350 says that you cannot drive “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.”

Weather as used in Vehicle Code section 22350 includes wind. Windy driving affects the ability of a truck driver to stay in his lane. Trucks that are empty are particularly prone to wind sway. Many motorcyclists are driven out of lane, struck or forced into another vehicle by a wind blown truck.

At higher speeds the amount of sway is increased. Force equals mass times speed. Wind speed added to high truck speed equals more force pushing the truck more rapidly and greater distances out of lane. This means a truck can be exceeding the speed limit if wind sway blows it into your motorcycle or car.

Environmental factors affect many cars, particularly cars with certain types of windshields. Glare induced accidents are no uncommon. Often the victims are pedestrians as staying in lane on city and suburban roads can be easily disrupted by sun glare. Sun glare accidents are difficult to prove and may require renting the same type vehicle and driving it to the same location at the same time of day (and year). A licensed private investigator may be needed for sun glare accident reconstruction.

There is also something called overdriving your headlights. Overdriving headlights means that if there is too much rain, fog or street or highway lighting to see well, you have to slow down. There is no mathematical formula for this so a careful investigation has to establish that had a more reasonable speed been followed, the accident would not have happened.

Fault is Critical in Order to Settle Accident Cases

In the context of a car accident personal injury case there can a contest as to who is at fault. This type of contest should be resolved in your favor (if possible) early in the process. If the insurance adjuster classifies your cases as one of mixed liability it is very difficult to change their mind later. This interferes with settlement and sometimes forces a trial. We would rather settle and get you money quickly so we put in the effort at the start to protect your rights.

A Note about Walnut Creek & Contra Costa County Accident Attorneys

Lawyers in Lafayette is run by Daniel Horowitz.  It is a local community law office located in Lafayette right across from Trader Joes. 

We are familiar with most of the Contra Costa County personal injury lawyers and we can say without hesitation that there are many truly exceptional injury lawyers in our area. We strongly encourage you to stay local with your cases and to look very critically at any out of town, 1-800 type personal injury law firms.

We appreciate the opportunity to earn your business. Please call us if we can be of help.