North Carolina's Speeding Laws and Penalties

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

North Carolina has two types of speeding laws: a “basic speeding law” and “absolute limits.” This article explains the differences between the two and the consequences of a speeding violation.

Basic Speeding Law

North Carolina’s basic speeding law prohibits driving at a speed that is “greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions 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, 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.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-141 (2017).)

Absolute Speed Limits

There is no trick to how North Carolina’s absolute speed limits work: If the fixed speed limit is 50 miles per hour and you drive faster than that, you’ve violated the law. North Carolina’s absolute speed limits include:

  • 25 miles per hour inside municipal corporate limits
  • 55 miles per hour outside municipal corporate limits for all vehicles except school buses, and
  • 70 miles per hour on interstate highways.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-141 (2017).)

Penalties for a Speeding Ticket

Generally, the penalty for a speeding violation is a fine. However, the total the driver pays will also include court costs, which typically range from about $150 to $200. For most speeding violations the fines are from $10 to $50, depending on the amount by which the driver exceeded the speed limit. But motorists who are caught speeding in school or constructions zones face a fine of $250.

Reckless Driving

Depending on the circumstances, a speeding violation can lead to a “reckless driving” conviction. A standard first offense is a class 2 misdemeanor and carries up to 30 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 15A-1340.23, 20-140 (2017).)

Point System

Depending on the circumstances, a speeding violation can also add points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-16 (2017).)

(Find out about North Carolina’s traffic violation points system, including the number of points corresponding to different citations.)


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