When Passing Another Vehicle, When is It Acceptable to Drive Over the Speed Limit?

a speed limit sign of 40 with the two cars driving side by side in close proximity

When you are on the road, you may find yourself behind a driver traveling slower than you would like to. When you have the room to do so, you may be able to pass this other vehicle legally and safely. However, you may be unsure at what speed this action is acceptable.

While you may have legal grounds to pass another vehicle, you may not have grounds to drive over the speed limit. So if you are passing another car, when is it acceptable to drive the speed limit? The car accident lawyers at The Text Kevin Accident Attorneys are here to answer these questions and many more about the roles of speeding and passing other vehicles when an accident happens.

Table of Contents

Basic Speed Law vs. Absolute Speed Law

Speed limits are not always as cut and dry as the speed limit suggests. In fact, the safe speed at which you can travel may vary depending on many conditions and factors. It can impact whether the police have probable cause to pull you over or whether you may face consequences because of these actions if a collision occurs.

When we speak about speed laws, you may face different laws depending on whether they claim you were in violation of basic speed law or absolute speed law. These laws may impact your claim in various ways, and they can impact what defenses may be used for your case if you are accused of negligence through speeding. Below are some of the ways speed laws may impact you.

Speed Limits Based on Road Conditions

First, basic speed law refers to the understood safest speed you can travel. Typically, this number is at the maximum posted speed limit, but it may be lower depending on the current road conditions. That can give the police cause for a traffic stop if you are traveling faster than this speed in hazardous conditions.

For example, you may be traveling on a highway with a speed limit of 55 mph, but it is currently raining. In these situations, the road may be slick and more challenging to travel on, making the basic speed limit lower than the posted speed limit. In these situations, if your speed is causing problems, this may give the police officers grounds for a traffic stop.

Weather is not the only basic speed law condition you may be impacted by. Heavy traffic, traveling at night, and other changes in road conditions can also affect whether you are able to travel safely at the posted speed. Talk to your personal injury attorney if you believe you were wrongfully accused of speeding and causing an accident by not following basic speed law.

Absolute Speed Law Limits Speed in All Circumstances

While basic speed law is the understood safe speed at which you can travel, absolute speed law is the absolute maximum speed you are allowed to travel. Generally, this is the posted speed limit you will see on signs along the roads. You are generally never legally allowed to travel over these limits.

The speed limit law is essential for passing purposes. Even in extenuating circumstances that may require breaking the speed limit, such as avoiding an accident or during an emergency, you may still face penalties if you break these speed limit laws. Because the only potential exceptions are for emergency reasons, you are generally never allowed to legally pass by driving over the speed limit.

Pro Tip
When in doubt, always slow down. You might be a few minutes late, but a little lateness is better than a traffic ticket or, worse, a collision.

Reminders for Safe Passing

Speeding up to pass can be a dangerous game, as high speeds and potentially traveling in the wrong lane for some distance can lead to accidents. Because of this, it is always important to pass carefully, ensuring that you are doing everything in your power to avoid an accident. When practicing these safe traveling rules, you can help keep yourself, your passengers, and any drivers you encounter on the road safer.

Always Make Sure You Have Sufficient Clearance

When passing another vehicle, especially on a two-lane highway, it is vital to ensure you always have enough room to complete the pass. If you try to pass without ensuring you have the room to reenter the lane, it can lead to a dangerous situation or even a head-on collision. These accidents can be fatal, especially at high speeds.

Because passing without sufficient clearance can lead to a severe accident, always look before you pass. That includes ensuring that you are passing in a section of road you are legally allowed to pass on and checking that no cars are incoming. If there are any doubts, whether due to a hill or a sharp curve, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Limit Distractions Behind the Wheel

Generally speaking, avoiding distractions behind the wheel is always a good thing. Driving distracted is one of the top reasons for car accidents in California, and simply avoiding these distractions can reduce your chances of having an accident. Limiting these distractions can also make passing much safer.

Passing another vehicle is already an action that requires focus and care to complete without potentially causing an accident. For example, if you are talking or texting on your cell phone, the lack of focus can make it challenging to make the quick judgment calls that may be needed to pass safely or to avoid passing right away. When you are distracted, you have less reaction time if something goes wrong, which can always lead to an accident.

Never Travel Above the Speed Limit

While speeding up to pass another vehicle can help give you the sufficient clearance needed for safely passing, do not do so with the help of speeding. While speeding may be necessary to pass in some cases, it is still a moving violation and should be avoided. In fact, if speeding is required to pass another vehicle, it is best to simply not pass them.

While some sources may claim that driving over the speed limit only briefly to pass may be legal, the letter of the law states that no driving above the speed limit is legal. While that does not always mean that you will be involved in a traffic stop for this, it does provide probable cause for police officers. That means that, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you may face consequences for driving over the speed limit.

If you are traveling on a two-lane highway, remember that passing is only allowed when the dividing stripe is a dash on your side of the road.

Consequences of Driving Over the Speed Limit to Pass

In some cases, speeding may be the only way to pass another vehicle successfully, but this is still against the law and can have other consequences. These consequences can vary in severity, from a financial burden to a life-threatening situation. This is especially serious if an accident happens as you are trying to pass the other vehicle.

Generally, the best way to avoid this is to avoid speeding to pass another vehicle, and understanding the potential consequences helps some drivers make the right choices. So what can you expect if something goes wrong because you are driving over the speed limit to pass? Below are a few common issues that drivers may experience if they are pulled over or involved in an accident while speeding to pass.

You May Have Multiple Moving Violations

When speeding to pass another vehicle, you may find yourself breaking multiple driving laws that can impact your future with high fines and potential damage to your lawsuit. You may receive moving violations for speeding, unsafe driving, and more. If you were driving distracted and were texting, you may face other, further penalties meant to deter texting behind the wheel.

This is still a risk even if you are injured in a distracted driving car accident. The other party may accuse you of causing the accident by failure to clear the past vehicle safely without causing an accident. In cases like these, you may receive violations, not only for unsafe driving and speeding but also for a failure to ensure you had sufficient room to pass.

You May Be Held Liable for Accidents

In some cases, you may have been driving over the speed limit when passing, and during this action, you were involved in an accident. This may have been a head-on collision because you are stuck in the other lane, a side-swiping accident, or other common accident types. Unfortunately, if you were speeding and failed to pass safely, you may be held responsible for the accident.

California Civil Code 1714 states that if a party is found negligent and that negligence caused the accident, that party may also be held financially responsible for the accident. If you are accused of being negligent and causing the accident, that can lead to you being sued for the damages the other driver suffered. That means you may need a lawyer’s help navigating your claim and defending your future.

I Was in an Accident While Passing Another Vehicle. How Can a Lawyer Help?

If you were passing another vehicle and this situation ended with an accident, you may need an attorney on your side, whether you are sure you are not at fault or whether the other party has already accused you of fault. Your attorney can guide you through your case and represent you throughout this process. Below are some of the specific ways that your attorney can provide guidance and tools for recovery.

Up-to-Date Guidance on State Law

You may struggle to follow state law as you navigate a legal claim. For example, you need to be aware of the strict time limits under California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1, as well as California’s pure comparative negligence law. Your attorney can review these laws and others with you to ensure that you are compliant with state legal statutes.

Representation Throughout the Litigation Process

As you pursue a lawsuit, you may find yourself intimidated by the idea of representing yourself. You may have never set foot in a courtroom, and you may be worried that you may say the wrong thing and lose part or all of the compensation that you are due. Worse, you may make a mistake when accused of negligence, leading to you paying for the accident.

When you have a personal injury attorney on your side in the courtroom, like our team at The Text Kevin Accident Attorneys, you have a legal professional who can represent you throughout the process. Our team offers trial experience for clients who may not have the knowledge needed to navigate the courtroom processes successfully. Our law firm is prepared to handle these details while you focus on your physical recovery.

Free Consultations About Your Case Before You Choose a Lawyer

As you pursue compensation or legal representation after a speeding or passing accident, you may be unsure what legal team is right for you. In fact, you may struggle to decide which of the law firms in your area would be best for your case. Fortunately, Orange County accident victims have the opportunity to speak with our team before they ever make a decision.

We offer free, no-strings-attached consultations for car accident victims who need answers before they choose their lawyer. We are prepared to speak with you before your case begins so that you know exactly what to expect from us through every step of the process. That includes discussions about your payment options, your case timeline, and more.

Have a question or concern about your accident claim? Our attorneys offer free consultations, so you can get answers before you commit or sign anything.

Seek Help from an Attorney if You Are Facing the Aftermath of a Speeding-Related Accident

When passing another vehicle, driving over the speed limit is generally unacceptable in all cases. While you may have reasons for doing so, speeding like this can lead to a traffic stop, an accident, and other serious consequences. When situations like these happen, you may need an Orange County car accident lawyer on your side to help you navigate these difficulties.

Fortunately, the attorneys at The Text Kevin Accident Attorneys are here to guide you through these complexities. Our team offers free consultations for potential clients who need answers about how speeding and feeling to pass another vehicle safely can impact their accident claim. To learn more about what we can offer your specific case, simply reach out through a phone call or our online contact form.

Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett is an award-winning personal injury lawyer who understands the impact an accident can have on someone’s life. That’s why he aggressively fights for each of his clients.

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