Governments impose speed limits within their jurisdictions. The purpose is to prevent accidents that could result from excess speed.
Drivers have a responsibility to obey the speed limit at all times, even if not posted. Many drivers may not be aware of statutory speed limits but can still get in trouble if they exceed them.
Statutory speed limits in general
When there is no speed limit posted, it does not mean that drivers can travel as fast as they want to. According to the Federal Highway Administration, state legislatures establish statutory speed limits that apply when there is no speed limit posted. A driver who does not observe statutory speed limits when there is no other speed limit posted may face penalties for a traffic violation.
Statutory speed limits in Virginia
State legislatures typically establish different statutory speed limits for different types of roads. For example, the statutory speed limit for a highway is higher than the speed limit for residential areas. Because each state legislature establishes its own statutory speed limits, they can vary greatly across state lines.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, there is a statutory speed limit of 35 miles per hour on unpaved roads. In residential neighborhoods and business areas, the statutory speed limit is 25 miles per hour. The statutory speed limit on most highways is generally 55 miles per hour. However, there is a specific statutory speed limit of 45 miles per hour for trucks traveling on routes numbered 600 or higher.
Statutory speed limits only apply when there is no speed limit posted on a given stretch of road. Posted speed limits can, and often do, exceed statutory limits and take precedence over them.