What Is A Safe Speed To Drive Your Car?

The safest speed to drive your car is usually the posted speed limit, but even that could be too fast in bad weather or on slick or wet roads.
Written by Sarah Gray
Edited by Jessica Barrett
Speed limits are posted to ensure all drivers travel at a safe speed under normal conditions, but the safest speed to drive actually depends on the weather and road conditions. Driving too fast can lead to accidents and injuries, as well as tickets, driver’s license points, and other repercussions, like increased
car insurance

There is no single “safest” speed to drive

A good place to start when it comes to choosing a safe driving speed is the speed limit. According to the
US Department of Transportation (DOT)
, speed limits help frame drivers’ expectations both for their own rate of speed and that of other drivers. 1
That said, the safest speed on any given road actually depends on multiple factors:
  • Type of road (interstate, freeway, city street, etc.)
  • Traffic volume
  • Roadway features (curves, hills, number of lanes)
  • Location of road (urban, rural, residential, etc.)
  • Presence or absence of on-street parking
  • Pedestrian or bicyclist activity
  • Crash history
  • Pavement conditions
Those that can’t be taken into consideration are the extenuating circumstances arising from things like:
  • Inclement weather, icy or slick conditions
  • Restricted visibility from smoke or fog
  • Temporary disruptions like the presence of wildlife, in-process traffic stops, or a vehicle accident
These circumstances and others require drivers to use their judgment and defensive driving skills to determine whether the posted speed limit is still the safest speed at which to travel—and the answer is usually no.
The best way to perfect your ability to choose the safest speed is to practice and keep track of situations in which you made the right decision and ones where you didn’t. 
app screenshot
You can use a telematics app like
DriveShield to easily track behaviors associated with both safe and unsafe driving—including speeding, harsh acceleration and braking, and harsh turning.
You’ll earn rewards for safe driving behaviors and receive tips to help you improve the not-so-safe ones.
And here’s a bonus: drivers who track their driving in the Jerry app earn an average safe driving score of 12% from their auto insurance provider.

How to choose a safe speed to drive your car

Step 1: Consider the posted speed limit

Each state’s legislature establishes a set of statutory speed limits for specific types of roads. The posted speed limit (or regulatory speed limit) is the limit that’s enforceable by law and the one you’ll see on the speed limit sign. This could be the same as the statutory limit or it could be a limit established by a city, county, or state transportation agency. 2
Both statutory and posted limits vary between states, but often fall within a few miles per hour above or below those listed in the table below:
Type/location of roadway
Example of statutory speed limit
Residential, school district, and other pedestrian-heavy roadways
25 mph
Rural highways with regular entry and exit points, driveways, etc.
55 mph
Interstate highways with access limited to designated on and off ramps
70 mph
“Special conditions” speed limits, such as school zones, work zones, or areas equipped with changeable message signs (CMS) to increase or decrease speed limits based on traffic volume
15 to 45 mph

Step 2: Consider the road conditions

Traveling an interstate at 70 mph on a clear summer afternoon is well within the bounds of safety. But traveling the same road at that speed when it’s covered in ice or snow, or even wet with rain, is dangerous—slippery roads always require you to slow down and increase your following distance.

Step 3: Consider your visibility

Of course you should slow down during foggy conditions or when driving in heavy rain or snow, but many drivers don’t consider the need to slow down at night. Even the best set of headlights only allows for a fraction of the visibility you have during the day.

Step 4: Consider potential hazards

Some hazards are taken into consideration for you when speed limits are being set, but others—like animals, construction, or a routine traffic stop on the side of the road—can pop up at any moment. 
As a safe driver, you should always be on the lookout for the unknown and unexpected, and be ready to slow your speed accordingly.

Penalties for driving at an unsafe speed

Driving at an unsafe speed carries inherent risks, but it can also lead to serious legal repercussions if you’re caught. Some of the most common penalties exceeding the maximum speed limit include:
  • Speeding tickets: Depending on where you’re ticketed, a speeding infraction may be classed as a minor offense or a misdemeanor. This means you could face not only fines and fees, but also potential jail time, license suspension or revocation, and higher insurance rates than when you had a
    clean driving record
  • Reckless or careless driving charges: Most states have a provision under which speeding can be classified as a more serious offense, usually a higher-grade misdemeanor. This means higher fines and fees, more jail time, and a greater likelihood that you’ll lose your driving privileges.
  • SR-22 requirements: If your speeding ticket or reckless driving charge results in a license suspension or revocation, most states require
    SR-22 filings
    to get your driving privileges reinstated. Since an SR-22 requirement signals to insurers you’ve engaged in seriously risky driving behaviors, you can expect
    much higher premiums
    going forward.


What is the safest speed to drive?

The safest speed to drive depends on the posted speed limit and the current weather and driving conditions. The posted limit will be the safest speed unless you also have to contend with increased traffic volume, decreased visibility, wet or icy roads, or other adverse conditions.

Is it safe to drive your car 100 mph?

No. Unless you’re a professional driver on a closed course, driving a car at 100 mph is never safe—and it’s not safe for professionals on closed courses either. It’s just safer than it is for an amateur driver.

What is a safe speed to turn a corner?

The safest speed at which to take a corner depends on the corner, your car, the posted limit, and the driving conditions. That said, taking a corner at around 15 mph or less will usually be safe. 3

Why should you drive slower in the rain?

You should drive slower in the rain because of decreased visibility and the dangers associated with wet roads. Since you won’t be able to see as well, you need to give yourself added time to react. Plus, the wet roads will make it more difficult to stop and could lead to hydroplaning.

How fast do you have to go to get a speeding ticket?

Technically, traveling even one mile per hour over the speed limit could get you a ticket. It’s always best to stick to the posted limit.

Is it safer to drive fast or slow?

You have more time to react when driving slowly, but if you’re in an area where most motorists are driving at a higher rate of speed, you can impede traffic flow and it can actually be more dangerous to drive slowly.
In short, it’s not necessarily safer to drive slowly—it’s safer to drive at the rate of speed most appropriate for the conditions in which you’re currently traveling. That means taking into consideration speed, road conditions, weather conditions, other drivers’ speeds, and other factors that may impact safety.

Can you survive a 70 mph car crash?

Yes, it is possible to survive a crash at 70 mph. That said, the likelihood of injury or death increases as the speed of travel increases—even if you’re wearing a seat belt.

What speed kills in a car crash?

Technically, any speed can kill in a car crash. That said, higher rates of speed carry a higher potential for injury and death.

Are slower speed limits safer?

Technically yes. Slower speeds provide more reaction time, making it easier to avoid a crash. This also increases pedestrian safety as the danger of injury and death increases 
exponentially with each additional mile per hour a vehicle travels. 4

Do speed limits actually save lives?

Yes. Especially when it comes to crashes involving pedestrians, speed limits save lives.

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