Skip to Content

Can you be slightly over the speed limit?

Driving over the speed limit, even if it’s just by a few miles per hour, is illegal. However, many drivers still go slightly over the limit regularly. This raises the question: can you get away with driving slightly over the speed limit without getting a ticket?

Is it ever legal to drive over the speed limit?

In most cases, no, it is not legal to drive even 1 mph over the posted speed limit. Speed limits are set for safety reasons based on engineering studies of the road. Driving over that limit reduces your control and increases the risk of a crash.

However, there are some exceptions where driving over the speed limit may be allowed:

  • If you are passing another vehicle on a two-lane road, you may legally exceed the speed limit to safely complete the pass.
  • During an emergency situation like rushing someone to the hospital.
  • When directed to speed by law enforcement, like during a police escort.

Outside of limited exceptions like these, any amount over the speed limit is illegal.

What is the tolerance for speeding?

While the technical law is that any amount over the limit is illegal, in practice police generally allow some tolerance before pulling drivers over. However, the specific tolerance or threshold can vary significantly by jurisdiction.

Some common speeding tolerances include:

  • 5 mph over the limit
  • 10 mph over the limit on highways/freeways
  • 15-20 mph over before considering it reckless driving

Officers have discretion, so one officer may pull you over at 3 mph over while another doesn’t stop you until 15 mph over. There is no guarantee of any consistent buffer. It depends on the officer and jurisdiction.

What factors influence speeding tolerance?

While the specific tolerance may vary, police generally consider various factors when deciding whether to pull over drivers for minor speeding infractions:

  • Actual speed – How much over the limit the driver is traveling.
  • Speed limit – Tolerance is lower in slower speed zones like school or residential areas.
  • Traffic conditions – More leeway when traffic is light vs. heavy.
  • Driver behavior – Weaving between lanes or erratic driving may lead to a stop even if speeding is minor.
  • Police department policies – Some departments encourage more stops for minor speeding than others.

In most cases, small amounts over the limit are not a high priority for enforcement. But officers still can legally stop drivers for any speeding and it remains the driver’s responsibility to obey speed limits.

What are the fines for minor speeding?

Speeding fines vary significantly across states and jurisdictions. Even just 1-5 mph over the limit can technically result in a fine in many areas. Some example minor speeding fines include:

Speed Over Limit Example Fine Amount
1-5 mph $50-150
6-15 mph $150-250
16-25 mph $250+

Higher speeding fines, driver’s license points, and insurance increases may apply for excessive speeding such as more than 25 mph over the limit.

Will minor speeding affect my auto insurance?

Potentially yes, even minor speeding tickets can impact your auto insurance rates. Insurance companies view drivers who speed and incur violations as higher risk.

For a single minor violation of 1-15 mph over, you can expect an average insurance increase of 15-22% for 3 years. More excessive speeding can increase rates further or even result in policy cancellation in some cases.

How can speeding tickets be challenged?

You do have options to challenge a speeding ticket in court if you believe it was unjustified or improper. Some common defense strategies include:

  • Questioning the accuracy of the officer’s speed measurement technique or equipment used.
  • Providing evidence the speed limit was not properly posted.
  • Arguing conditions made the speed reasonable.
  • Technical issues with paperwork or procedures in the traffic stop or ticket issuance.

Consulting an experienced traffic lawyer can help identify any potential defenses that apply to your specific ticket situation.

Can you get a warning instead of a ticket?

Yes, officers have discretion to issue warnings rather than tickets, even if you were technically speeding. However, you have no right to demand a warning. It is up to the judgment of the officer.

Being polite, admitting fault, and not making excuses can sometimes help avoid a ticket for minor speeding. But it’s not guaranteed.

What’s the best way to avoid speeding tickets?

The only foolproof way to avoid speeding tickets is to obey all posted speed limits. But here are some tips to help prevent accidental speeding:

  • Set your cruise control when appropriate on highways.
  • Download a speedometer app on your phone for reference.
  • Adjust your speedometer if it reads fast.
  • Allow extra time so you don’t feel rushed.
  • Avoid weaving through traffic.

Stay focused on your speed, traffic signs and road conditions at all times as well.


Driving even slightly over speed limits is illegal in most cases. While thresholds and enforcement vary, officers can technically stop drivers for any speeding violation. It is impossible to predict precisely how much leeway any particular officer may give. The only sure way to prevent speeding tickets is to always obey posted speed limits.