Virginia Institutes New Rules for Careless & Reckless Driving
On July 1, 2020, several new Virginia laws took effect, creating rules against careless driving and increasing the penalty for certain reckless driving offenses, according to an article by NBC12.
More specifically, Senate Bill 437 instituted rules against careless driving to protect “vulnerable road users.” At the same time, House Bill 885 increased the mandatory criminal fine for reckless driving offenders who engage in excessive speeding.
To fully understand these legal changes, it will be helpful to review Virginia laws against careless and reckless driving.
What are the Virginia Laws Against Careless Driving?
The rules against careless driving appear in Code of Virginia Section 46.2-816.1. This section makes it illegal to:
- Drive in a careless or distracted way; and
- Cause serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user.
In this context, the terms “vulnerable road user” and “serious bodily injury” have specific definitions under Virginia law.
The term vulnerable road user under Section 46.2-816.1 includes pedestrians, animal-drawn vehicles, and people riding animals. This term also includes the operators and passengers of various personal vehicles, such as bicycles, skateboards, and wheelchairs.
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-51.4 defines the term “serious bodily injury.” This term includes injuries that involve serious risk of death, extreme physical pain, chronic disfigurement, or similar disability or impairment.
The punishment for careless driving appears in Section 46.2-816.1. Any person who commits careless driving will likely face Class 1 misdemeanor charges. Upon conviction, the offender can face fines up to $2,500 and one year in county jail.
What are the Virginia Laws Against Reckless Driving?
The rules against reckless driving appear in Code of Virginia Section 46.2-852. Reckless driving occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle in a dangerous way that creates a risk of property damage, physical injury, or death.
In addition to this broad rule, Virginia law also qualifies other types of behavior as reckless driving. For example, excessive speeding can qualify as reckless driving under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-862. This section makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle:
- At least 20 miles per hour above the applicable speed limit; or
- More than 85 miles per hour, regardless of the applicable speed limit.
The punishment for reckless driving appears in Code of Virginia Section 46.2-868. At a minimum, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a reckless driving offender will likely face the same sentence described for careless driving. Though in certain cases, reckless driving can result in felony charges and a more severe sentence.
With the combination of House Bill 885 and Senate Bill 63 now effective, however, certain reckless driving fines have increased. The fine increases by $100 for excessive speeding, if the offender drives 81 to 85 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone.
Furthermore, reckless driving offenses include mandatory driver’s license suspension under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-392. The applicable suspension period for reckless driving offenses is generally a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of six months.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with careless or reckless driving in Virginia, it can be highly constructive to speak with a skillful criminal defense attorney. The Winchester reckless driving attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have long-standing and far-reaching experience with criminal defense in Virginia, including various driving violations. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.