What does the basic speed law mean?

the basic speed law means

Speed ​​violations are a national health problem and are a major reason why the country is in line of getting ousted concerning road safety at the world level. In the United States, speed violations kill about 10,000 people each year, in addition to an unknown number of injuries. 

Speed laws in the US vary from state to state, and mainly the respective government determines it. Municipalities and counties are also entrusted with setting low-speed limits in certain areas under their jurisdiction. Speed ​​limits are an essential part of American history. 

Here’s a brief history of speed limits and how speed limits have evolved across the country.

Speed laws

The basic laws of speed vary by location and vehicle, and it is just the speed limit imposed to maintain traffic safety and order per traffic regulations. 

The speed law method is based on the basic speed law theory. It means that you can get prosecuted for violating the “basic” speed law, even if you are driving below the prescribed speed limit. It is at the compliance officer’s discretion to determine if the vehicle speed is unsafe and rashly driven, given the driving conditions at the time, even if the vehicle speed is within the specified speed limit.

Types of speed laws

In general, the state has two types of laws regarding speed limits. 

  1. A law that sets a specific speed limit with a specific setting

For example, a state may set different maximum speeds at which a vehicle may operate on a state highway (65 mph) and a school zone (25 mph). 

  1. A law requiring drivers to drive the vehicle at a speed that suits their situation

For example, even if the speed limit posted on a country road is 65 mph, driving the freeway at 65 mph in a heavy night storm can result in a speeding ticket.

Speed limits—Absolute, presumed, and basic

There are three types of speed limits  enforced nationwide: “absolute,” “assumed,” and “basic.” 

  • The absolute speed limit is the most common form of speed law. If the sign clearly states the speed as 55 mph and the vehicle is driven above that limit, it will be a violation.
  • Presumed speed limits are driving 40 mph in a zone of 35 mph and presumed to be speeding up. But you could be acquitted if you convince the judge that you’ve driven safely in such a situation at 7 am on a sunny, dry morning with no other cars on the wide, straight road. 
  • While the basic speed law considers all the three-factor— speed of the vehicle, the speed limit on that particular road, and the traffic conditions at that time. The person driving below the speed limit but speeding as per the traffic conditions at that time could be fined for such an act.

History of speed limit laws

Connecticut was the first state to pass the speed limit law in 1901. The law restricted vehicle speeds to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads. However, a law limiting the speed of non-electric vehicles had already been enforced. 

The colonies of New Amsterdam (now New York) enacted a law in 1652  that wagons, carts, and sleighs could not be sprinted, ridden, or driven. The offender may face a fine of 2 pounds Flemish, and that’s about $ 150 by today’s standards. And in 1903, New York City introduced America’s first comprehensive traffic code.

The national speed limit of 55 mph

Due to the cost of rising fuel prices, many states began enacting speed limit laws in the early 1970s to save money and resources. President Richard Nixon approved a national speed limit of 55 mph in all states in 1974. After the law came into force, the number of deaths on American roads fell from 4.28 per million miles of mileage in 1972 to 2.73 miles in 1983. 

However, fuel availability and costs became less of a concern in the 1980s, and the domestic speed limit on highways was raised to 65 mph.

Speed limits—freedom or regulation?

Since the early days of automobiles, there has been debate about freedom and regulation regarding speed limits. Some states, such as Montana and Nevada, have historically opposed speed limit legislation and have imposed minimal fines for violations. 

In 1995, the US Congress returned the speed limit law to individual states, allowing each state to set a speed limit. Since then, 35 states have raised the limit to over 70 mph.


The fastest road in the United States is the 40-mile toll road between Austin and San Antonio, which allows drivers to drive at 85 mph legally. Speed ​​limits have shifted across the United States as cars get faster and roads get safer. 

Today, speed limits are complex, country-to-country, and legally bound. The enforcement of speed limits and the politics surrounding them are equally complex.  However, one thing that remains constant throughout the history of the speed limit is a variable factor; its violation could be fatal.


How are the speed limits visibly represented during days and nights?

Speed limits mark boards will be represented as a white sign with black text for days and a black sign with white text for nights.

Which state has the fastest speed limit?

Texas has the highest speed limit of 85mph in the united states.

What is NMSL, and why was it repealed?

NMSL is the National maximum speed law that was repealed in 1995 to entitle the states with the power to settle speed limits to individual states.

What was the National maximum speed before the abolition of NMSL?

Before the 1980s, the national maximum speed was 55mph, which increased to 65 mph in the 1980s.

Since when kph speed limits sign representation is used?

USA has kph signs after the metric speed limits were abolished in 2009 to the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).