In the state of Virginia, there are several different ways one might receive a ticket for reckless driving. Because there are different statutes that address different driving behavior, all of which qualifies under the general umbrella of “reckless driving,” a discussion of these statutes is in order.
The General Rule for Reckless Driving
Under the Virginia Code § 46.2 – 852, the general rule of reckless driving is that, regardless of the maximum speed permitted by law on a given stretch of highway, when you drive a car either recklessly or at a speed that endangers the life, limb, or property of another or in a manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of another, you may be charged with reckless driving.
Reckless Driving – Faulty Brakes
Virginia Code § 46.2 – 853 covers reckless driving under a situation where someone has faulty brakes. When someone drives a car under the following conditions, he or she can be found guilty of reckless driving if on a highway and one of the following conditions is present:
- The car is not under proper control.
- The car has inadequate brakes.
- The car has improperly adjusted brakes.
Reckless Driving – Passing
Passing a car can result in reckless driving charges. Virginia Code § 46.2 – 854 covers the situations where passing can result in a criminal reckless driving charge. Where a driver:
- Overtakes and passes another vehicle
- driving in the same direction
- on or approaching a crest of a grade or
- on or approaching a curve
- Where the driver's vision is obstructed vision is obstructed.
This is reckless driving. The exceptions to this charge include cases where the highway has two or more lanes in each direction, or the roadway or highway is one way only.
Reckless Driving – Certain Conditions
Certain conditions can result in reckless driving charges under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 855. Two of these conditions can occur when:
- A person drives a car that is so loaded with items that it obstructs the driver's view, or
- There are so many people in the front seat that the driver's view is obstructed when looking out the front or to either side.
- The front seat is so crowded with people or things that the driver's ability to control the driving mechanisms of the car safely is hindered.
Reckless Driving – Passing Two Vehicles Abreast
When a driver passes two vehicles abreast and moving in the same direction, this can lead to reckless driving charges under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 856. Exceptions to the charge include:
- There are three or more lanes of traffic for each direction of travel.
- The passing took place on designated one-way streets or highways.
- One or both of the vehicles the driver passed is a :
- Electric personal assistive mobility device
- Electric power-assisted bicycle or
Reckless Driving – Driving Two Abreast
When you drive abreast of another vehicle while traveling in a lane designed for only one vehicle, this is reckless driving under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 857.
Motorcycles are exempt from this charge.
Reckless Driving – Passing at a Railroad Grade Crossing
Unless it is on a highway with two or more lanes in each direction or in a passing zone, it is reckless driving to pass another car driving in the same direction at any railroad grade crossing or at any intersection of highways under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 858.
Reckless Driving – Passing a Stopped School Bus
Under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 859, when a person driving a car approaches a stopped school bus from any direction, he or she must stop if the school bus is stopped to take on or let off children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped people. This is true whether on a highway, private road, or school driveway.
Reckless Driving – Failing to Give Proper Signals
When a driver intends to slow down, turn, partly turn, or stop, they must give adequate notice and timely signals of their intention. Failure to do so is reckless driving under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 860.
Reckless Driving – Too Fast for Conditions
When someone drives in excess of a reasonable speed, given the circumstances and traffic conditions, he or she can be guilty of reckless driving. This is true regardless of the posted speed limit, according to Virginia Code § 46.2 – 861.
Reckless Driving – Speed
When someone drives in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or in excess of 80 miles per hour regardless of the maximum speed limit, he or she is guilty of reckless driving under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 862.
Reckless Driving – Failure to Yield
Drivers must stop completely before entering a highway from a side road unless the driver has a “Yield Right of Way” sign in his or her favor. Drivers on the highway must observe and comply with instructions to yield. Failure to do so is reckless driving under Virginia Code § 46.2 – 863.
Defenses to reckless driving depend on the type of reckless driving charge. For example, “driving recklessly” can mean different things to different people. This is a factual argument that should be made to a jury.
When speed is an element, there is a question of how the government knows you were or were not speeding. The State has the obligation to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes establishing the Radar or Lidar equipment the officer was using was properly calibrated within the relevant time frame and was being operated consistent with the manufacturer's instructions.
Most, but not all types of reckless driving must occur on a highway. “Highway” has a legal meaning under Virginia law, and it extends beyond what some people think of when they hear the word. However, not every roadway in Virginia meets the legal definition of highway. Depending on where the conduct took place, the state may not be able to meet the legal requirements of the statute.
Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a $2500 fine, or both. You may also lose your license for a period of time.
If You Are Facing Reckless Driving Charges
If you are facing reckless driving charges, contact the Law Office of Charles F. Koehler, P.C. We have experience in handling criminal cases. Many people think reckless driving is “just a traffic charge.” This is simply not the case. Reckless driving, as a Class 1 misdemeanor, is a criminal offense. Don't face these charges alone. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us online or call us at 703-669-5644 today for a consultation.