Washington D.C. Speeding Laws

Learn about the District of Columbia's speeding laws and the consequences of a ticket.

In addition to "absolute speed limits" (see below), Washington D.C.'s "basic speeding law" prohibits driving at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. (D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 18, § 2200 (2017).) 

Penalty for Exceeding Speed Limit

A first-time speeding violator is facing:

  • $15 to $100 in fines, and
  • the possibility of a two-to-90-days license suspension.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

Washington D.C. defines “reckless driving” as driving:

  • “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of others,” or
  • “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger a person or property.”

For a first violation, a motorist is looking at up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum $500 in fines. (D.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-3571.01, 50-2201.04 (2017).)

(Learn more about D.C.'s reckless driving laws.)

Speed Limits

The District of Columbia's absolute speed limits are:

  • 25 miles per hour (unless otherwise posted)
  • 15 miles per hour in alleys, and
  • 15 miles per hour in streets adjacent to school buildings or playgrounds when indicated.

(D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 18, § 2200 (2017).)

D.C. Speeding Law

The District of Columbia has what is known as an “absolute” speed limit law. There's no trick to how it works: If the sign says 40 miles per hour and you drive 41 miles per hour or more, you have violated the law. In other words, you are guilty if you drive over the speed limit. In D.C. you may be able to make three possible defenses:

  • attacking the officer’s determination of your speed (to do this you must discover what method the officer used to cite you and then learn about the ways to attack that particular method)
  • claiming an emergency forced you to exceed the speed limit to avoid serious damage or injury to yourself or others, and
  • claiming that the officer mistook your car for another car (with so many similar-looking cars, it is possible that a cop could see a speeding car, lose sight of it around a corner, and then wrongly pick out your car farther down the road).

Note that in D.C. you can be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed, even if that speed does not violate the posted limit—for example, driving exactly at the maximum posted limit on the freeway amidst slower and heavy traffic, in a dense fog, or in a driving rainstorm or blizzard.

Point System

Under the point system, a person's license can either be suspended if they accumulate eight points (16 points for drivers who operate motor vehicles for employment purposes) or be revoked if they accumulate 12 points. The following points are assessed for speeding and other speed related traffic law violations: Reckless driving-12 points; speeding in excess of the posted speed limit by 21 miles per hour or more-five points; speeding in excess of the posted speed by 16 to 20 miles per hour-four points; speeding in excess of the posted speed limit by 11 to 15 miles per hour-three points; for all other accident violations-three points; and, for all other non-accident violations-three points.

(Learn more about the point system in Washington D.C.)

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