Speeding in a Construction Zone in California
Vehicle Code 22362 VC

construction warning traffic sign on a busy road
A motorist is presumed to be in violation of the State's basic speeding law if "speeding" within 400 feet of a construction zone

Under California Vehicle Code Section 22362 VC, a motorist is presumed to be in violation of the State's basic speeding law if "speeding" within 400 feet of a construction zone.

"Speeding" simply means driving at a speed faster than the posted speed limit. Vehicle Code 22362 states that speed limits within construction zones can be set as low as 25 miles per hour.

There are five important points to know about speeding in California construction zones.

  • A motorist is presumed to be in violation of California's basic speeding law if driving over the speed limit in a construction zone. This presumption though can be rebutted if the motorist shows he was driving safe and reasonable.
  • The penalties for violating Vehicle Code 22362 VC include: (1) a fine of $367 to over $600; and (2), one point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he gets 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
  • Legal defenses to violations of both Vehicle Code 22362 and Vehicle Code 40508 do exist. It's wise to consult with an attorney to understand which defense is right for you.
  • If a motorist speeding in a construction zone gets involved in an automobile accident while in that zone, he can be found negligent per se for any injuries he causes.

In the article below, our California personal injury attorneys will address:

Motion blurred photo of vehicle going through business district
It's a "prima facie" violation of California's speeding law if a motorist drives at a speed greater than the posted speed limit within 400 feet of a work zone

1. Is it illegal to speed in a construction zone in California?

According to California Vehicle Code Section 22362 VC, it's a "prima facie" violation of the basic speed law for a motorist to travel in excess of the posted speed limit within 400 feet of a construction or work zone.1

Vehicle Code 22362 VC is a slightly complex code section that requires motorists to learn the following:

  1. The meaning of the section's language;
  2. California's basic speeding law; and,
  3. The definition of "prima facie."

VC 22362 is best understood once all of these are comprehended and put together.

1.1 What does Vehicle Code 22362 say?

On its face, the language of VC 22362 appears simple. It's a "prima facie" violation of California's speeding law if a motorist drives at a speed greater than the posted speed limit within 400 feet of a work zone.2

However, quick questions arise as to:

  1. What is California's basic speeding law; and,
  2. What does "prima facie" mean?

1.2 What is California's basic speeding law?

California's basic speeding law is found in California Vehicle Code 22350 VC.  VC 22350 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.

(emphasis added).3

The basic speeding law essentially requires motorists to drive at a reasonable and safe speed. What a reasonable and safe speed is will depend on the circumstances or facts of a case.4

If a driver drives unsafe and unreasonable, he is in violation of the law.

1.3 What does "prima facie" mean?

This is a Latin phrase that literally means "at first sight."

In legal terms, "prima facie" is often used as an adjective that means "sufficient to raise a presumption, where the presumption can be disproved."

In law, a presumption is simply the act of taking something as true.

1.4 So, what exactly does Vehicle Code 22362 VC mean?

If we combine the above knowledge, we learn that VC 22362 means that:

  1. There is a presumption that a driver violates the basic speeding law if he drives at a speed greater than the posted speed limit within 400 feet of a construction zone.
  1. But, this is just a presumption. The meaning of "prima facie" says that a driver can attempt to disprove the presumption.
  1. Under VC 22362, a motorist can disprove the presumption by showing that, although he was driving more than the posted speed limit, he was not in violation of California's basic speeding law.
  1. This means that the motorist must show that his speed was safe and reasonable under the given circumstances.

Example: Carol is driving on a California highway. She passes a sign that informs her that a construction zone is 400 feet ahead. The sign also clearly indicates that the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. It's mid-day on a clear, warm day. The highway is not slippery or wet. There are no other cars on the highway. Carol reduces her speed from 65 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.

There is no doubt that Carol is driving at a speed greater than the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit. She is also within 400 feet of a construction zone. Under Vehicle Code 22362 VC, there is now a "prima facie" case that Carol is in violation of the basic speeding law. If Carol is stopped and given a ticket for violation of VC 22362, she can challenge it.

Her best chance at challenging it is to show that, although she was driving five miles per hour over the posted speed limit, she was still driving safe and reasonable. Carol could show this by highlighting that:

  • She was driving only slightly faster than the speed limit
  • No other motorists were on the highway
  • It was a clear day with excellent driving conditions
Blurred photo of attorney consulting with client
There are legal defenses if a motorist is accused of violating VC 22362

2. Are there legal defenses if accused of speeding in a construction zone in California?

There are legal defenses if a motorist is accused of violating VC 22362. It's in the motorist's best interests, however, to consult with an attorney before raising one.

2.1 What are the most common legal defenses?

The most common legal defense is for a driver to show that, although she was technically speeding within a construction zone, she was still driving safe and reasonable. Therefore, she followed California's basic speeding law. This is demonstrated in the above example.

Another common defense relates to the signs posted near the construction zone. Recall that Vehicle Code 22362 states that speed limit signs must be posted within 400 feet of each end of a construction zone.5 A motorist accused of violating VC 22362 could therefore challenge the ticket by arguing that these signs were not present; or, were posted less than the requisite 400 feet.

2.2 Do I need an attorney if accused of speeding in a construction zone?

Motorists can represent themselves when fighting a ticket for speeding in a construction zone. But, it's recommended that anyone who receives such a ticket hire an experienced lawyer to represent them.

It's advantageous to hire an attorney for three main reasons. These are:

  1. Prosecutors tend to offer better deals to defendants with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys are knowledgeable on how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
  3. Defendants with defense lawyers do not have to go to court.

3. What are the penalties if I'm guilty of speeding in a construction zone?

The possible consequences of a motorist violating VC 22362 include:

  1. A speeding ticket and a subsequent fine; and,
  2. Getting points put on the driver's DMV driving record.

3.1 How much is the fine if caught violating 22362?

The exact amount of the fine will depend on how fast a driver was going.

If driving 1 – 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $367.

If driving 16 – 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $525.

If driving 26 or more miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $648.6

3.2 How many points are put on my driving record if I speed in a construction zone?

Violators of Vehicle Code 22362 will receive one point on their DMV driving record.7  

Points assessed on a motorist's record are reported to that motorist's insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in the driver's insurance rates for several years.

If a person accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period in California, the DMV can declare that person a negligent operator. If this is done, the DMV can suspend or even revoke that person's driving privileges. Either action requires a California DMV hearing.

Large classroom with empty school desks
The driver generally should not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school

4. Do I have to attend traffic school if caught speeding in a construction zone?

Motorists that violate Vehicle Code 22362 VC do not have to attend traffic school.

Drivers, though, can voluntarily choose to do so. Generally, you can go to traffic school if:

  1. You have a valid driver's license;
  2. The offense occurred while driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
  3. Your ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

If a driver elects to go to traffic school, he must still pay his traffic fine.8   However, the driver generally should not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school.9

5. Is it a crime to violate Vehicle Code 22362?

It is not a crime if a motorist speeds in a California construction zone.

These violations are infractions under California law and an offender is not subject to incarceration.

6. What happens if I ignore a California speeding ticket?

Two things happen if you ignore a speeding ticket. These are:

  1. You violate a new law, California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. You may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1 What is the violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC?

When you are issued a traffic ticket in California, the officer will have you sign a written promise to appear at the time and place specified.

If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.10   You willfully fail to appear when you are willingly a no-show. It doesn't matter if you didn't intend to break the law.11

Nor does it matter whether you're guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.12  You violate Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:

  • Appear in court,
  • Appear to pay bail,
  • Pay bail in installments,
  • Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
  • Comply with any condition of the court.13

6.2 What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 40508 VC?

Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000.14

7. What is the effect of a VC 22362 violation on a personal injury lawsuit?

A driver who speeds in a California construction zone, and thereby causes an accident, is likely to be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit.

California law defines "negligence" as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of an auto accident, the negligent driver is at fault for the accident. Further, the negligent driver may have to pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case is sometimes difficult. In California though, a driver is considered "negligent per se" if he violates a statute.

Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant's violation of a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se if speeding in a construction zone since he would be in violation of VC 22362.

Also know that if a driver is in violation of Vehicle Code 22362 VC, he also is technically in violation of California's basic speeding law. And, California courts have ruled that a violation of the basic speeding law is negligence as a matter of law.15

Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, or negligent as a matter of law, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California's comparative fault laws.

8. Are there laws related to VC 22362?

There are three laws related to speeding in a California construction zone. These are:

  1. Speeding in violation of California's "prima facie" speed limits;
  2. Speeding in violation of California's absolute speed limits; and,
  3. Double fines in construction zones.
School zone traffic sign
According to California Vehicle Code 22352 VC, and unless otherwise posted, the "prima facie" speed limits are 25 miles per hour in school zones

8.1 What are California's "prima facie" speeding laws?

Vehicle Code 22362 VC includes the language "prima facie." California has two speed limits that are specifically defined as "prima facie" speed limits.

California's "prima facie," or presumed, speed limits are set forth in California Vehicle Code 22352 VC. According to this section, and unless otherwise posted, the "prima facie" speed limits are:

  • 15 miles per hour at railroad crossings, in alleys, and highway intersections without 100 feet of visibility of approaching vehicles; and,
  • 25 miles per hour in business and residential districts and school zones.

Both speed limits operate similarly to VC 22362. If a driver is driving faster than a "prima facie" speed limit, it doesn't necessarily mean that he is speeding and in violation of the law.

A driver can still be found not guilty of speeding if he can show that he was not in violation of the basic speeding law. This means he must show that his speed was safe and reasonable under the given circumstances. If the driver cannot do this, he is in violation of California Vehicle Code 22351 VC.

A motorist found breaking California's "prima facie" speed limits will face the following penalties: 

  1. A speeding ticket and the possibility of a license suspension.
  2. One point on the motorist's DMV driving record.

8.2 What are California's absolute speed limits?

California's absolute speed limits operate differently than the State's basic speeding law and "prima facie" speed limits.

California's absolute speed limits prohibit drivers from driving faster than:

  • 70 miles per hour on freeways marked for that speed;
  • 65 miles per hour on freeways and other highways (that are not marked for 70 miles per hour); and,
  • 55 miles per hour on two-lane, undivided highways (unless marked for a higher speed).16

These limits are considered absolute because if a motorist is driving faster than the limits, then he is considered speeding and in violation of the law. California's basic speeding law doesn't apply.

8.3 Can a motorist receive double fines in construction zones?

Vehicle Code 42010 gives California traffic judges the authority to double fines for certain violations that take place in "Safety Enhancement Zones."17

The violations for which a motorist could receive a double fine are specifically outlined in VC 42010.18 Some of the more common violations include:

Were you accused of speeding in a California construction zone? Call us for help…

female operator smiling
Call us for help

If you or someone you know has been cited for speeding, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAW-FIRM (855-529-3276). For cases in Nevada, please see our page on NRS 484B.130 speeding in a work zone in Nevada.

Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 22362 VC. This section also states that speed limits must be posted within 400 feet of the work zone and the limits can be set as low as 25 miles per hour.
  2. See same.
  3. California Vehicle Code 22350 VC.
  4. People v. Farleigh (2017) 221Cal. Rptr. 3d 253.
  5. See California Vehicle Code 22362 VC.
  6. See DMV.org.
  7. See DMV.org.
  8. See California Courts website.
  9. See same.
  10. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
  11. CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
  12. See same
  13. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
  14. California Penal Code 19 PC.  Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
  15. People v. Lett (1947) 77 Cal. App. 2d 917.
  16. See California Vehicle Code 22349 VC and California Vehicle Code 22356 VC.
  17. California Vehicle Code 42010 VC.
  18. See same.
  19. See same.

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