What is the Difference Between Reckless & Aggressive Driving in Virginia?
Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is unlawful to engage aggressive or reckless driving that puts other people or property in danger of harm. To minimize this risk, Virginia imposes criminal penalties for any person who engages in reckless or aggressive driving.
The definition of reckless driving appears under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-852. Reckless driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle in a dangerous and careless manner. If that person presents a clear and present danger to other people or property, it qualifies under the general umbrella of reckless driving.
Outside of Section 46.2-852, Virginia law also provides many specific types of reckless driving, including but not limited to driving with faulty brakes or an obstructed view, racing, and excessive speeding.
Code of Virginia Section 46.2-868 details the penalties for reckless driving. Generally speaking, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. For that level of misdemeanor, the standard Virginia penalties include one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
The definition of aggressive driving appears under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-868.1. There are two aspects to an aggressive driving charge in Virginia.
First, there is a behavioral aspect to aggressive driving offenses in Virginia. To qualify the driver must:
- Represent a hazard or danger to another person; or
- Intend to harass, injure, intimidate, or obstruct another person.
Second, aggressive driving only applies if a person violates one or more of the following traffic regulations:
- Driving on the wrong side of the highway (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-802);
- Operating outside of marked traffic lanes (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-804);
- Failing to maintain proper distance from other vehicles (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-816);
- Neglecting right-of-way regulations for certain highways (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-821);
- Ignoring traffic control devices (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-833.1);
- Passing vehicles improperly (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-838);
- Overtaking a vehicle on the right side improperly (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-841);
- Failing to yield to passing or overtaking vehicles (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-842);
- Neglecting to yield to overtaking vehicles on certain highways (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-842.1);
- Disregarding limitations on overtaking or passing (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-843);
- Halting improperly on certain highways (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-888); or
- Speeding in violation of any provision of Article 8, Chapter 8, Title 46.2.
Under Section 46.2-868.1, aggressive driving is usually a Class 2 misdemeanor. For that level of misdemeanor, the standard Virginia penalties include six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. On the other hand, aggressive driving can rise to the level of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable as explained in the previous section. Additionally, the offender may need to complete an aggressive driving program.
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If you need legal help with reckless driving in Virginia, it is tremendously helpful to consult with an accomplished criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, know how to defend against various criminal charges, including reckless driving. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.