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When you think about it, there is almost no way you can legally speed. Like in California, where you have to be the police or Highway Patrol to do it. Ambulances can go 10 mph over the speed limit if going to an emergency or taking victims to the hospital. But did you know there is a special exception for doctors and speeding?

Exemption sticker
Speed exemption sticker for California physicians | CVC

California’s legal vehicle code allows doctors to speed, in the event of an emergency. It is Vehicle Code 21058, and it exempts physicians from speed limits responding to an emergency. However, they still have to obey laws around things like stop signs and HOV lanes. 

“The provisions of this section do not relieve the driver of the vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway, nor protect the driver from the consequences of an arbitrary exercise of the privileges of this section”-VC 21053. Those who satisfy the requirements get a sticker to display on their windshields. 

Why can doctors legally speed?

Doctor sits in the back of his mobile medical van | Jon Hatch/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty

The reason the state has this exemption is to help physicians get to emergencies in rural areas. In a bulletin from the California Society of Anesthesiologists, one surgeon said, When I am racing across the county at two in the morning to handle a gunshot wound, I’ll be happy to not have to worry about getting pulled over.”

The bill allowing this came in the 1970s but never became law. Physicians and the California Highway Patrol brought it about in 2004 when it became law.

Can anyone get this speeding sticker?

House doctor
The country doctor comes from a house call. | Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty

But don’t go run out and apply for these stickers. To receive one you have to be a licensed physician and be able to prove it. But with it on cars, you’re in a small group of pre-approved Californians that can speed going to an emergency.

The California Medical Association says that driving on freeways en route to an emergency takes away speed limits. Doctors must agree that in the use of the exemption, they’ll be held responsible for breaking other laws of the road and the accidents and injuries resulting from its use. 

Montana was the only state with no speed limit until 1974. That’s when President Richard Nixon passed the Emergency Energy Highway Conservation Act. This set a maximum speed limit across the U.S. It took until 1987 before President Bill Clinton signed into law the National Highway System Designation Act, which repealed the 55 mph limit. 


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