Texas has two types of speeding laws: a “basic speeding law” and “prima facie speed limits.” This article explains the differences between the two and the consequences of each type of violation.
Texas’s basic speeding law prohibits driving “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances 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.
(Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 545.351 (2017).)
Some states have “absolute speed limits.” With absolute limits it’s simple: If the sign says the speed limit is 40 miles per hour and you drive faster than that, you’ve violated the law.
Texas, however, uses prima facie speed limits. If you exceed a prima facie speed limit it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guilty—you still have the opportunity to prove in court that your speed was safe. If you’re able to do so, the judge (or jury) is supposed to find you not guilty.
Texas’s prima facie speed limits include:
(Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 545.352 (2017).)
Generally, anyone convicted of speeding will have to pay a fine plus court costs. Fines and costs vary by location but usually range from about $130 to $300, depending on the amount by which the driver exceeded the speed limit.
Depending on the circumstances, speeding could lead to a reckless driving conviction. Convicted motorists face up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum $200 in fines. (Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 545.352 (2017).)
Typically, a speeding violation will add at least two points to a motorist’s driving record. Accumulating too many points within a three-year period leads to surcharges the driver must pay. (Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § § 708.052, 708.053, 708.054 (2017).)