Speed Limits in New York

Written by Staff Writer

What are New York traffic laws regarding speed limits?

First, let's define speed limit. A speed limit is the maximum legal speed you can travel on a road under ideal conditions. You may drive reasonably slower than the posted speed, but it is illegal to drive any faster. Speed limit signs typically mark maximum speed limits as well as minimum speed limits. All drivers must share the roadways, and to do so safely requires mutual consideration, cooperation, and responsible judgment. Those drivers who insist on travelling under the minimum speed limit may hold up traffic so that a procession of cars ends up behind the slow driver.

Regardless of speed limit, no person may drive a vehicle on a highway at a greater speed than is reasonable under the conditions and existing hazards.

You must obey the posted speed limit or, if no limit is posted, drive no faster than 55 mph. Be aware, however, that some cities in New York have speed limits lower than 55 mph that may not be posted. For example, the speed limit is 25 mph in New York City unless another limit is posted.

It is important to note that the minimum speed on most expressways in the State of New York is 45 miles per hour. It is often just common sense to keep your actual speed limit well below the posted limit. For example, the legal limit on an icy or foggy expressway might be 55 mph, or even 65 mph on some highways, but the safe speed to drive would be much lower. Even if you were to drive at 50 mph on that hazardous highway, a police officer could ticket you for driving at a speed "not reasonable and prudent" for existing conditions. As with right of way, speed limits are not absolutes. You must adjust your speed if conditions require.

It is important to slow down:

  • on narrow or winding roads;
  • at intersections or railroad crossings;
  • on hills;
  • at sharp or blind curves;
  • where pedestrians or driving hazards are present; and
  • on wet or slipper roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that "It is clear that speeding does represent a significant traffic safety problem...". Speeding is a factor in nearly 30% of all fatal crashes annually. In New York, 280 of the 966 (29%) total traffic fatalities in 2014 were speeding-related.