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Defining New York’s default speed limit

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For many in New York, the age-old answer of “Was I speeding?” in response to a traffic stop may seem to be simply a humorous attempt to get out of a ticket. However, oftentimes that represents a genuine inquiry, as there are many areas of the state that do not have speed limits posted.

To complicate matters even further, information shared by the Federal Highway Administration states law enforcement officials enforce statutorily established speed limits even when those limits are not posted. This makes it imperative that residents looking to challenge a ticket understand the state’s laws in this regard.

New York’s default speed limit

There are standard speed limits that most understand even without speed limit signs. Examples include not driving in excess of 20 miles per hour in a school zone or 25 in a residential area. Yet what about those major roads and highways without posted speed limits? According to Section 1180 of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws, in areas in which there is no speed limit posted, the default limit is 55 miles per hour. In such an area, authorities may officially cite drivers who exceed these limits.

Implied speed limits

There are exceptions to this default limit, however. The same law that sets the state’s default speed limit also says that the limit lowers when hazards exist that require one to drive slower in order to remain safe. One such hazard may be heavy rain. Slick roads often result in drivers losing control of their vehicles. Thus, should one fail to account for the rain (and continue to drive at high speeds), law enforcement may again issue citations to them.

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