Types of Reckless Driving in Virginia
Reckless Driving Is Complicated
In Virginia, reckless driving can be complicated and confusing. There are 15 different types of reckless driving charges as well as many related lesser offenses. Consequently, two drivers who make the same mistake may be give two different tickets.
For example, a driver pulled over for driving 82 miles per hour (mph) in a 65 mph zone can be charged with reckless driving or, instead, be given a simple speeding ticket. Or a driver charged with reckless driving for passing a school bus (Va. Code §46.2-859) could have been issued a simple traffic citation for passing a stopped school bus (Va. Code § 46.2-844), which is only a $250 traffic ticket.
Whether a driver receives a traffic ticket or is issued a summons for reckless driving has everything to do with the officer who pulls over the driver and the circumstances surrounding the offense. Some law enforcement departments have hard and fast rules about when an officer must or must not issue a summons for reckless driving.
For example, in Fairfax County police officers will often write speeding tickets for driving 76 mph in a 55 mph zone, but the state troopers in Fairfax County will usually issue summons for reckless driving.
Specific circumstances can also affect who is charged with reckless driving and who receives a traffic ticket. Having a poor driving record, having a child in the car, having alcohol on one’s breath, irritating the police officer, causing or nearly causing an accident are examples of things that may cause a law enforcement officer to write a summons for reckless driving instead of a simple traffic ticket.
Reckless Driving Does Not Always Mean The Driver Was “Reckless”
Just because a driver is issued a reckless driving ticket in Virginia does not necessarily mean the driver put anyone in danger or acted in a reckless manner. Reckless Driving is a name for a class of crimes in Virginia. For instance driving 75 mph in a 55 mph zone is reckless driving regardless of whether the driver was being “safe” or “dangerous”. Claiming that “No one was put in danger” or “I am a safe driver” are not defenses to some forms of reckless driving.
The 15 Types of Reckless Driving
The following sections discuss the many ways a driver can be convicted of reckless driving.
Related Lesser Offenses
The prosecution (or occasionally the judge) may amend the charge of reckless driving to speeding. Speeding usually carries a maximum fine of $250 (plus about $62 in court costs) and is not a criminal charge (though fines may be doubled in some areas such as construction zones and Highway Safety Corridors.). However, a speeding ticket for more than 20 mph over the limit generally has the same effects on insurance as reckless driving at the same speed and carries -6 points which can lead to a DMV administrative suspension if a driver has a bad driving record.
Tickets for speeding less than 20 mph over the limit result in fewer points and generally fewer insurance consequences. (For more information about speeding go to www.speedingticketsvirginia.com).
Va. Code § 46.2-869: Improper Driving
At the discretion of the prosecutor, reckless driving may be reduced to improper driving, which is a traffic violation and not a criminal charge. The maximum fine for improper driving is $500 (plus $66 in court costs). Fines may be doubled in some areas such as Highway Safety Corridors. However, improper driving has much less of an effect on insurance premiums and carries only -3 points.
Va. Code 46.2-830: Failure to Obey a Highway Sign
Speeding and some other offenses which may be considered Reckless Driving may also constitute Failure To Obey A Highway Sign. The highway sign in question may be a speed limit sign, a “no U-Turns sign”, a “One Way” sign or any other sign. Failure To Obey A Highway Sign is a -3 point violation in Virginia and carries a maximum fine of $250. It is also usually considered a minor traffic infraction by insurance companies as well.
Va. Code § 46.2-844: Failure to Stop for School Bus (Non Reckless)
This code section is almost exactly the same as the reckless version of the same offense only this is a traffic infraction not a criminal charge.
Each County and town can choose to write their own reckless driving laws. For example, the Fairfax County Code sections 82-4-1 through 82-4-5 all deal with Fairfax County’s version of the Reckless Driving laws. However, a driver charged with reckless driving in Fairfax County will not automatically be charged under the Fairfax County Codes.
Being charged with the local version of a traffic offense may have a strong positive or negative impact on a driver’s case and an attorney who is not familiar with the local codes may make a costly mistake. A driver charged with reckless driving should be sure to hire an reckless driving attorney who is familiar with the local codes and ordinances and should let their attorney know if they are charged under any statute outside of the Virginia state code.
Wet Reckless (DUI – Reckless Driving)
Police sometimes issue a charge for reckless driving when a driver has been drinking but is not intoxicated to the point required for a DUI. Drug or alcohol consumption can play a major role in a reckless driving case even if the charge is not related to intoxication.
If an officer claims that you have the odor of alcohol, that you look intoxicated, or if an officer has you perform any tests, contact an reckless driving attorney immediately. Even though you were not charged with DUI you may still be facing severe consequences similar to those of a DUI, including forced attendance of an alcohol safety action (ASAP) program, ignition interlock, license suspension and jail time.