Washington’s Speeding Laws

Read about Washington’s speeding laws and the consequences of getting a speeding ticket.

Like most other states, Washington has two types of speeding laws: “absolute speed limits” and a “basic speeding law.” This article explains the differences between the two and the consequences of each type of violation.

Basic Speeding Law

Washington’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.” In other words, motorists must always drive at a safe speed. What a safe speed is will depend on the circumstances. For instance, driving 55 miles per hour might be safe on a bright, sunny day. But if it’s dark and the road is icy, going 55 miles per hour could be dangerous and a violation of the basic speeding law.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 46.61.400 (2017).)

Absolute Speed Limits

There is no trick to how Washington’s absolute speed limits work: If the absolute speed limit is 40 miles per hour and you drive faster than 40 miles per hour, you’ve violated the law.

Washington’s absolute speed limits prohibit driving faster than:

  • 60 miles per hour on state highways
  • 25 miles per hour on city and town streets
  • 25 miles per hour when passing school or playground crosswalks, and
  • 15 miles per hour on country roads.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 46.61.400, 46.61.440 (2017).)

Penalty for Exceeding Speed Limit

Generally, a speeding citation will cost you up to $250 in fines and an additional $17 in fees. However, the maximum fine is doubled for speeding violations in school and playground crosswalks.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 46.61.440, 46.63.110 (2017).)

Reckless Driving

Depending on the circumstances, speeding could lead to a “reckless driving” conviction.  Washington defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 46.61.500 (2017).)

(Learn more about Washington’s reckless driving laws and penalties.)

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