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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Reckless Driving > What’s the Difference Between Illegal Passing and Reckless Driving?

What’s the Difference Between Illegal Passing and Reckless Driving?


Illegal passing is a simple traffic violation and reckless driving is a misdemeanor. That’s the biggest difference between these two infractions. A traffic ticket conviction usually means a fine, points, and possibly higher insurance rates. A reckless driving conviction means long court supervision, a much higher fine, and possible drivers’ license suspension, even for a first offense. Furthermore, a reckless driving conviction goes on your permanent record.

The consequences of a traffic ticket conviction are bad enough, and traffic school isn’t always available in these cases. The consequences of a misdemeanor conviction are even worse, and traffic school is never available in these cases. So, these defendants need a Leesburg reckless driving lawyer to stand up for them throughout the process, from the initial court appearance to the final plea or trial date. Attorneys also represent defendants in post-conviction matters, such as probation revocation hearings and expungement requests.

Illegal Passing

Major Section 46.2 violations include passing in a no-passing zone and passing without leaving a large enough cushion. Usually, the passing vehicle must be at least two feet from the passed vehicle.

Passing a stopped school bus is probably the most severe illegal passing citation. A conviction means a mandatory $250 fine, plus costs and fees. This penalty applies if the bus was “discharging children, elderly individuals, or individuals with mental or physical disabilities.”

The school bus driver or stop arm camera rarely identifies the driver, at least beyond a reasonable doubt. So, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer could use the “I wasn’t driving the car” defense in these cases. However, the camera’s footage or driver’s testimony creates a presumption that the defendant was driving. So, the defendant has the burden of proof on this point.

Incidentally, in Virgina, it’s legal to pass on the right, if the roadway is clear and the passed motorist is waiting to make a left turn.

Reckless Driving

Motorists may not pass two vehicles abreast except in limited situations. Section 46.2-856 is probably a reckless driving offense because these motorists usually speed excessively during these maneuvers.

Passing a stopped school bus could also be reckless driving. Usually, officers issue simple traffic tickets if a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction fails to stop. Passing a stopped school bus from behind is much more dangerous. Therefore, officers often issue reckless driving tickets in these situations.

Similarly, officers may elevate failure to signal citations to reckless driving citations. They usually do so if the motorist was violating more than one traffic code provision at the time or the motorist was uncooperative.

Incidentally, according to the law, “The driver of a vehicle, however, need not stop when approaching a school bus if the school bus is stopped on the other roadway of a divided highway, on an access road, or on a driveway when the other roadway, access road, or driveway is separated from the roadway on which he is driving by a physical barrier or an unpaved area.” This exception also applies if a police officer is onsite and directing traffic.

Connect With a Diligent Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.

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