Like most other states, New York has two types of speeding laws: “absolute speeding limits” and a “basic speeding law.” This article explains the differences between the two and the consequences of each type of violation.
New York’s basic speeding law prohibits driving at a speed that is “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, on a certain road, 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.
(N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1180(a) (McKinney) (2017).)
There is no trick to how New York’s absolute speed limits work: If the sign says the speed limit is 40 miles per hour and you drive faster than 40 miles per hour, you’ve violated the law.
Generally, the maximum speed limit in New York—unless otherwise posted—is 55 miles per hour.
(N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1180(b) (McKinney) (2017).)
Basic speed law violations. A violation of New York’s basic speeding law carries $45 to $100 in fines and/or up to 15 days in jail.
Absolute speed limit violations. For most violations of an absolute speed limit, the driver faces $45 to $600 in fines and/or up to 30 days in jail; the exact amount and possible jail time depend on the circumstances, including the speed. But violating an absolute speed limit in a school zone can result in enhanced penalties: Convicted drivers are looking at $45 to $1,200 in fines and/or up to 30 days in jail.
(N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1180 (McKinney) (2017).)
Depending on the circumstances, speeding could lead to a “reckless driving” conviction. New York defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle “in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.” For a first offense, a motorist is looking at up to 30 days in jail and/or $100 to $300 in fines. (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § § 1212, 1801(1) (2017).)
(Learn more about New York’s reckless driving laws.)
Typically, a speeding violation will add at least three points to a motorist’s driving record. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension. (N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 15, § 131.3 (2017).)
(Find out about New York’s traffic violation points system, including the number of points corresponding to different citations.)