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  • Writer's pictureMERCADO KRAMER LLP

What does “speed unsafe for conditions” mean? Learn about California Vehicle Code 22350.

A picture of speeding car lights at night. Drivers must adjust their speed to be safe for conditions such as dark and fog. Failing to do so can cause accidents.

If you have been involved in a car wreck in California, you may notice in the crash report that a driver is cited for “speed unsafe for conditions” under California Vehicle Code 22350. Also known as the Basic Speed Law, CVC 22350 is a statute that prohibits drivers from driving at a speed that is greater than is reasonable or prudent under the conditions. A driver must take actual and potential hazards into account out on the road.

The full text of the law reads:

No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or

prudent, having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and

width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of

persons or property.

Drivers are commonly cited with this code when they rear-end another driver. If you could not stop in time before hitting the car in front of you, then logically, your speed was not a safe one. CVC 22350 is a useful catch-all citation that officers use for rear-end accidents. Many drivers cause rear-end accidents because they are not paying attention, are distracted by talking on a cell phone or messing with the radio. Under civil (non-criminal) law, drivers have a duty of care to drive safely and pay attention to the drivers around them. A driver can be held responsible in civil court for rear-ending you, even if they are not formally cited by an officer.

Personal injury lawyers can use CVC 22350 as a powerful tool. For example, there may be a dispute about a driver hitting a pedestrian. The driver could claim that they were driving at the speed limit, and the pedestrian darted in front of them. A skilled personal injury attorney may be able to show that, due to foggy weather, driving the speed limit was not good enough. The driver was in an area with a lot of pedestrian traffic and knew or should have known that visibility would be limited. If they had slowed down in response to the hazard of fog, the pedestrian would not have been hit. This is just one example. Every case is different.

CVC 22350 can also be used against you if you are injured in a car accident in California. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will have a lot of money and resources to spend defending the case. This can include arguing that you share responsibility for your own injuries – a legal concept called comparative fault. Let’s say there was a collision where a driver pulled out in front of you, and you had the right of way. If you were driving at the highway speed limit in rain and fog, with almost no visibility, the defense attorney might argue that you share responsibility for the collision. The fact that you were driving within the speed limit would not help you much if conditions were so bad that the other cars around you had slowed down to half that speed. If you have a concern that your speed was unsafe for conditions in a wreck, you can speak confidentially to a personal injury attorney.

The Basic Speed Law requires drivers to adjust their speed based on the current conditions rather than relying solely on posted speed limits. By following this law, drivers can reduce their risk of accidents and help ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road. It is also a good example of how the law is not always black and white. There are millions of situations where CVC 22350 could apply, and there is no magic equation to know when someone’s speed is unsafe for conditions.

Many of our laws ask us to be “reasonable.” Ultimately, if there’s a disagreement about whether someone’s speed was “reasonable,” it becomes a question for the jury to answer at a trial. But with evidence, persuasion, and strategy, the right personal injury attorney has a good chance of winning a fair settlement. You can speak to our personal injury attorneys for free at our offices in Salinas or San Jose, by phone, or wherever it’s convenient. Call 888 311-4050.


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