This article is not intended to educate seasoned drivers, especially commercial
driver’s license (CDL) holders who could probably write a book about
how to avoid speeding downhill. We instead intend to inform novice drivers
that are towing a trailer or recreational vehicle (RV) behind their vehicle
through mountainous areas. Though new CDL holders may find these tips
helpful as well.
Although this is a compilation of information from a variety of sources, the
CA Commercial Driver’s Handbook was the most valuable reference. In fact, we believe there should be a
rainbow attached to the handbook because it is a “pot of gold.”
Mountain Driving & Speeding Downhill
The highest point in the continental United States is right here in CA.
Mount Whitney rises to 14,505 feet. The lowest point below sea-level is
at Death Valley. Plus, there are 46 mountains that peak above three kilometers
or 9,843 feet in CA. Therefore, knowing how to control speeding downhill
is crucial to traveling throughout the state, particularly if you are
hauling a trailer.
Another point to remember when pulling a trailer in CA is CA Vehicle Code (CVC)
Speed Laws, that requires a maximum speed of 55 mph. Additionally, on many mountain
passes the speed limit dips to 35 mph for those vehicles. This information
may shock truckers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from Nevada,
Oregon, and Arizona because the law is mostly restricted to CA.
Therefore, in CA it is much easier to get a ticket for speeding downhill
while pulling an RV trailer or another vehicle. That’s right, when
you drive through Cali with your mobile home on wheels, towing your Smart
car, the speed limit is 55 mph statewide.
Due to gravitational pull, most notably when pulling a trailer, you must
watch your speed on downgrades. Never exceed the posted speed limit, even
by a few mph because many communities are hungry for revenue and CA fines
are some of the highest in the country. To maintain a safe speed, consider:
● The vehicle’s weight and the weight of the trailer or cargo
● The grade and its length
● Road conditions
Each of these factors affects the pull on your vehicle and the push from
the trailer. Use your vehicle transmission’s lower gear to sustain
a consistent velocity and use your brakes only when necessary to preserve
them to stop.
Keep in mind that the road’s grade is not an adequate defense when
cited for speeding downhill.
The distance it will take to stop a vehicle increases with the weight of
the vehicle and trailer. Other factors include reaction time, speed, and
weather conditions. Not to slight our senior readers, but many seniors
are the ones with the time and means to travel in those big RVs with a
car in tow. As we age, it is only natural that our eyesight, in most cases,
is not as good, which will affect your reaction time.
Awareness of the danger ahead, reaction time, plus, the push of the trailing
vehicle and speed equal the safe stopping distance. Once you spot the
risk ahead, the brain must process the risk. The average reaction time
is three quarters to one second; in which time your vehicle going 55 mph
could go an additional 61 feet. Once again, this depends on the weight
of the trailing vehicle and grade. Plus, in dry conditions, it could travel
an added 216 feet. Therefore, ideally you might need nearly 300 feet or
the length of a football field to stop. Going the speed limit may not
be prudent in some weather conditions and could get you a ticket for driving
“speed greater than is reasonable” considering weather and
other conditions, CVC
Consult an Attorney from Central Valley
When you receive a ticket for speeding downhill on I-5, 395, SR 99 or any
of the other highways in Kings, Kern, Fresno, Mono, Inyo, Tulare, or even
some in SLO, LA, and Riverside counties, you may need a traffic attorney.
Two of the best make up the traffic ticket defense team of Bigger &
Harman. They are familiar with the day-to-day operations of traffic court
in these counties because they regularly practice only traffic law there.
When they’re not in their office working on motions to dismiss and
other legal necessities for clients, they’re in traffic court, where
they listen to other traffic cases. Their knowing which defenses work
for others can be beneficial to you.
Before you call any traffic attorney, consider their
Nolo.com write up and their 4.7-star rating out of a possible 5. Nolo is a prestigious
national online digest for legal professionals. You might also examine
Yelp’s 85 comments from clients and those on their
Although you may come across a negative comment or two, the majority are
positive because they have successfully defending nearly 2000 traffic
tickets for clients. They know they can’t win every case or get
a dismissal or reduced charge every time, but they do promise to give
you their best.
Call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300, for an appointment. Send a private
message on Facebook, their website
contact form, or email,
Se habla Español 661.349.9755.
CA Commercial Driver Handbook