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When Does Failing to Signal Become Reckless Driving in Virginia?


On roads and highways across the Commonwealth of Virginia, drivers are required to use vehicle signals to indicate when they will turn, slow down, or stop. Any driver who disregards these requirements can face criminal charges for reckless driving. If convicted, a reckless driving offender can face prison time and severe criminal fines.

Required Vehicle Signals

Code of Virginia Section 46.2-848 establishes the overarching state laws for required vehicle signals. Under this section, every driver must give a signal when they intend to:

  • Turn or partially turn their vehicle;
  • Slow their vehicle;
  • Back up their vehicle; or
  • Stop their vehicle.

That being said, Section 46.2-848 also requires drivers to check first before engaging in any of these vehicle movements. If turning, slowing, backing up, or stopping would be unsafe, the driver must react accordingly under this section.

Method for Giving Signals

Code of Virginia Section 46.2-849 provides the legal methods for vehicle signaling. The standard approach involves the mechanical and electronic functions of the automobile in question. In other words, the driver should use their turn or brake signals as normal.

When standard mechanical or electronic are impaired or unavailable, Section 46.2-849 also authorizes drivers to use hand or arm signals as follows:

  • Turning Left — The driver should extend their arm horizontally and aligned with their shoulder;
  • Turning Right —The driver should extend their arm upward; or
  • Slowing or Stopping — The driver should extend their arm downward.

Changing Course After Giving Signal

Code of Virginia Section 46.2-850 outlines the considerations for changing course after giving a signal. Under this section, drivers must proceed in the same course as indicated by their signal. If a driver needs to change course, they must give a new signal properly indicating the new course of direction.

Failure to Give Proper Signals

Code of Virginia Section 46.2-860 makes it unlawful to operate a vehicle without giving proper signals. More specifically, a driver must give timely and adequate signals, as described in the previous sections, before turning, slowing, or stopping.

Any person who violates Section 46.2-860 is guilty of reckless driving. Reckless driving is normally punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor under Code of Virginia Section 46.2-868. Upon conviction, an offender usually faces a maximum of 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in criminal fines, either or both.

Additionally, Code of Virginia Section 46.2-392 mandates driver’s license suspension for reckless driving convictions. Under this section, reckless driving results in driver’s license suspension for a period of 10 days to six months.

Let Us Help You Today

If you have legal questions about Virginia charges for reckless driving, it can be decidedly helpful to consult with a dependable criminal defense attorney. The Winchester reckless driving attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have defended clients against many types of criminal charges, including reckless driving. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

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