We’ve all been in the scenario where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour and the vehicle in front of you is traveling at 50 miles per hour. How fast can you travel to pass the vehicle and not be in violation of the law?
The laws regarding speed are very clear cut. The following California Vehicle Code sections are the most commonly used sections for speed limit enforcement:
1. 22349(a) VC — 65 mile per hour speed limit.
2. 22349(b) VC — 55 mile per hour speed limit.
3. 22356(b) VC — 70 mile per hour speed limit.
4. 22350 VC – Unsafe speed (this section is used for any other speed limit not listed above).
These limits are absolute and even one mile per hour faster is probable cause for an enforcement stop. In the above scenario, the speed you can legally travel to pass the other motorist is 55 miles per hour. Although some officers may use their discretion to allow for faster speeds while passing, the California Vehicle Code does not allow for any variance in the speed limit. If you are passing at 56 miles per hour, you very well may be stopped and cited.
What if I’m in the midst of passing and there’s another car approaching from the opposite direction? Can I speed up to avoid a collision?
If you are passing another vehicle and realize you don’t have enough time to safely pass without “flooring” the accelerator to get around, there’s more than just one violation taking place (speed and passing with insufficient clearance).
Here are a few Tips from CHiPs regarding speed and passing:
1. Prior to starting a pass, it is imperative you make sure it is safe. Make sure you have enough time and distance to make the pass without being a danger to oncoming traffic.
2. If you start to pass and realize you won’t have enough time to safely pass the other vehicle at your current speed, the safest thing to do is apply the brakes and get back behind the other vehicle. It is not worth risking your life, or the lives of others to pass a vehicle.
3. Remember, speed kills. The force of a crash is increased exponentially the faster you travel, so make sure you are traveling at the speed limit at all times.
Speeding up when passing is a common practice. That’s why it is extremely important to stay off your cell phone and limit distractions while driving. If you’re paying attention behind the wheel, you will be more likely to observe another motorist doing something dangerous (such as passing with insufficient clearance) and have more time and distance to react appropriately to avoid a collision.
Be sure to do your part to avoid traffic-related injuries and deaths. Always follow the speed limit, keep a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you, never drink and drive, always wear your seatbelt and make sure all your passengers are properly restrained.
Send questions to Officer Ken Antonetti by mail, email or in person. The Coalinga CHP office is located at 125 S. Sixth St., Coalinga, CA 93210. The email address is email@example.com.