Speed Limits

Speed Limit Sign

Why Are There Speed Limits?

Speed regulations and speed limits are intended to supplement motorists' judgment in determining speeds that are reasonable and proper for particular weather and road conditions. Limits are imposed to assist enforcement personnel and to promote better traffic flow by reducing the wide variance in speeds.

Who Sets These Limits?

Virginia's General Assembly establishes statewide maximum statutory limits and has granted authority to the commonwealth transportation commissioner, who heads the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and to cities and certain counties and towns to establish speed limits that do not exceed the maximum allowed by law for highways under their jurisdictions.

How Are Speed Limits Determined?

Speed limits are based on an engineering study that considers various factors that affect the safe and appropriate speed.

A primary consideration is the speed characteristics, particularly the prevailing (free-flowing) speed, of vehicles on the roadway.  Experience has shown that motorists tend to drive at the speed they perceive as appropriate for the conditions of the roadway, rather than the posted speed limit. Absent undue enforcement, posted speed limits that are set much lower than the prevailing speeds will not be obeyed by motorists.

The engineering study also considers other factors that provide additional indications of the appropriate speed limit. These include the physical characteristics of the road such as geometry, lane and shoulder widths; the nature of traffic on the roadway such as the volume and type of vehicles; the commercial and residential development along the road and the related traffic; pedestrian activity, and the historical number and type of crashes. In addition, appropriate information from law enforcement, as well as consensus with the speed limit recommendation is sought

What Are The Speed Limits For Roads That Are Not Posted?

The speed limit for most business and residential areas is 25 mph. On secondary roads (those routes numbered 600 and above, with one exception), the limits are 45 mph for trucks and 55 mph for other vehicles.

Effective July 1, 2014, a maximum speed limit of 35 mph applies to all unpaved roads statewide, as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly this year. The road does not have to be posted.

How Can I Get Motorists To Slow Down In My Neighborhood?

Many people assume that reducing a speed limit will cause speeding motorists to slow down, but studies have shown that rather, motorists tend to drive at the speed they perceive appropriate for the conditions of the roadway.

When determining speed limits, engineers attempt to set a realistic limit that the majority of drivers will obey and that can be reasonably enforced. Contact the state police or your local police if motorists are traveling at speeds higher than what is posted.

How Can I Get A Speed Limit Lowered Or Raised?

If you feel there is a need to change a current speed limit or if you have other questions, contact the resident maintenance manager at your local VDOT office.

Why aren’t all Interstate Speed Limits 70 mph?

In urban areas heavier traffic volumes and a higher number of interchanges dictate lower vehicle speeds and indicate the need to set speed limits below the maximum allowable 70 mph set by law. In rural areas, where lower traffic volumes and less interchanges allow for higher speeds, speed limits are set at the maximum allowable 70 mph.

How Can I Get More Information?

For more details about speed limits, consult the Virginia Driver's Manual published by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

This information is not intended to replace the laws of Virginia relating to speed limits. For specific questions, refer to Chapters 46.2-870 through 46.2-878 and 46.2-1300 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended.

Page last modified: Dec. 19, 2014