One of the suprising aspects of Virginia’s traffic laws are the number of different reckless driving offenses on the books. This is particularly surprising considering that when most folks think of reckless driving, they envision a car weaving through traffic at high, out-of-control speeds, causing immediate and obvious danger to everyone else around them. While this example of reckless driving is certainly an accurate one, reckless driving may arise in a number of far less obvious contexts.
The Virginia Code recognizes the following types of reckless driving (for the actual language of the statute, please click on the links):
1. § 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule. Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving;
2. § 46.2-853. Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes;
3. § 46.2-854. Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve;
4. § 46.2-856. Passing two vehicles abreast;
5. § 46.2-857. Driving two abreast in a single lane;
6. § 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing;
7. § 46.2-859. Passing a stopped school bus; prima facie evidence;
8. § 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals;
9. § 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions;
10. § 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit;
11. § 46.2-863. Failure to yield right-of-way;
12. § 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, etc.; and
13. § 46.2-865. Racing; penalty.
Some of these forms of reckless driving should be very apparent to the drivers of Virginia’s roads. If you pass a stopped school bus, for example, it should come as little surprise that a police officer can, and probably will, cite you for reckless driving. But as the various reckless driving laws in Virginia make evident, there are plenty of gray areas where police officers have discretion regarding whether to charge a driver with reckless driving.
Take, for instance, Virginia Code sec. 46.2-861, which prohibits drivers from driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions. Under this particular statute, a traffic officer can ticket a driver for exceeding “a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.” As phrased, this statute allows an officer to use a great deal of his or her discretion to consider a multitude of variables as to whether speed is reasonable based on traffic conditions, the weather, or numerous other circumstances. Under this scenario, a police officer has a great deal of power to determine whether to ticket someone for reckless driving or some other lesser driving infraction.
The penalties for reckless driving in Virginia can be severe. According to Va. Code 46.2-868, any driver convicted of reckless driving “shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.” A class one misdemeanor in Virginia is a serious charge — it is the most serious form of misdemeanor under Virginia criminal law — and it can be punishable by confinement in jail for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, a conviction for reckless driving is a 6 point traffic violation and it will remain on the driver’s record for up to 11 years. Given these high stakes, it is vital for those ticketed with reckless driving to understand the severity and consequences of the charge and to contact an experienced attorney to discuss all available options.
If you have been ticketed for reckless driving in Virginia and would like to learn about your rights, please contact Robert Byrne, the managing attorney of MartinWren, P.C. and a member of its Virginia Reckless Driving Attorneys Group and its Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers Group, at 434-817-3100, or, toll free, at 855-812-9220.