When to Slow Down on the Highway: A Quick Summary

Highways are for cruising at 75 mph, listening to your favorite Spotify playlist and catching some sunbeams through the front windshield. Yes, driving on the interstate is fun — but sometimes you have to slow down on the highway. Like way down. Here’s when you need to put your foot on the brake pedal, turn off the Lana del Rey and pay extra close attention to your surroundings.

How Slow Can You Go?

The maximum highway speed limit in the United States is generally around 70-80 mph. But there are plenty of instances in which you’ll need to slow ride, take it easy, like:

When driving through a work zone

If you see slow down signs telling you about highway construction, make sure to follow them. Often these signs will have a speed limit posted along with a fine if you violate the warning. You don’t want to get in trouble with a police officer, and you certainly don’t want to hit an innocent construction worker or maintenance vehicle, so please proceed with caution. Those warning signs are there for a reason!

Yeah, don't do this.
Yeah, don’t do this.

When passing a wreck

Wrecks happen. And when they do, you gotta be prepared. Slow down to avoid people and cars who may be gathered at the scene of the accident, including tow trucks, emergency vehicles and law enforcement. Although there won’t be warning signs to help ya out, if you see a patrol car with its red and blue lights flashing, that’s your cue to reduce your speed. And remember, it’s Traffic Safety 101 to pull over when you hear a siren or see an ambulance with flashing lights. Seeing a wreck on the highway can be scary, but it’s yet another reminder to drive safely.

Your reaction when you see a car wreck.
Your reaction when you see a car wreck.

When there is stop-and-go traffic

You can’t control traffic conditions, and unfortunately, sometimes you’ll hit a jam. Highway traffic is pretty much the bane of everyone’s existence, so just hang in there and you’ll be fine. It’s especially important to be alert in heavy traffic in case another motor vehicle brakes suddenly or wants to change lanes. Just because you’re moving more slowly, does not mean you can forgo the rules of highway safety. Continue to check your blind spots, use your turn signal and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Above all, avoid distracted driving and resist the urge to pick up your cell phone just because you’re bored.

Sorry, LC.
Sorry, LC.

At night

At night, it’s just plain harder to see. Be cautious and s l o w  d o w n when it’s dark out. It’s also important to be extra good about using your turn signal when changing lanes. Because we can’t always make out the shapes of cars in the dark, using our lights properly becomes even more critical.

Working on my night moves.
Working on my night moves.

If there is something in your way

Most interstate road conditions are not immaculate. You’ll see potholes, cracked pavement and uneven surfaces. Ugh. If the road in front of you looks a little rough, please reduce your speed and proceed with caution (it should go without saying that everyone in the car should have their seat belts on, too). Sometimes you’ll run into bigger obstacles on the highway — like debris that’s fallen off a truck, busted tires, road kill or even an animal crossing the road. In each of these situations, you’ll want to decelerate to avoid damaging your vehicle or causing bodily injury to an innocent lil critter.

Hello, little guys
Hello, little guys

If you get behind a slower vehicle

Sometimes you’ll get behind cars moving slower than horse-drawn buggies. Approach that situation like you would a red light: brake and slow down. While it’s annoying to be stuck behind a slow-poke, just be patient until the opportunity arises for you to change lanes and be on your merry way.

You might get stuck behind a grandma driver.
You might get stuck behind a grandma driver.
Remember: Just because the speed limit says 75 mph, that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to slow down on the highway. Keep your eyes open and be aware of situations that might cause you to take it slow.