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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