Reckless Driving in Virginia: It’s Not Just Speeding

“Reckless driving” may conjure up images of high-speed chases or a car weaving in and out of traffic at a frightening clip—and both of those risky styles qualify as reckless driving here in Virginia—but there are other types of driving maneuvers that are also considered illegal.

Aggressive driving is not the same as reckless driving. Aggressive driving includes violations such as following the vehicle in front of you too closely or failing to yield the right-of-way when entering a highway. It is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor unless there is intent to injure, in which case it becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor.

In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with stiff fines and punishments that may include six-month suspension of your driver’s license, fines of up to $2,500 and/or jail time of up to 12 months. According to the law: “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.”

Types of reckless driving include:

  • Going 20 miles over the posted speed limit or going more than 80 miles per hour.
  • Going too fast or too slow for the road conditions.
  • Passing a school bus that is equipped with warning signs and flashing lights while it is stopped to load or unload passengers.

Here are several other types of reckless driving for which you may be arrested:

Racing…and aiding and abetting racing

Want to lose your driver’s license for up to two years? That’s just one of the penalties for racing two or more vehicles in Virginia. Obviously, racing on a federal, state, county or local road or highway is illegal, but so is racing “on any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public in the Commonwealth.” (There is an exception when permission is given by the business property owner or agent.)

You don’t have to be behind the wheel of a racing vehicle to find yourself in violation of the law. A charge of aiding and abetting a race can be leveled for an act as simple as putting up barricades in preparation for a drag race or similar contest.

Failure to maintain control of your vehicle

The usual reason for a charge of failure to maintain control is faulty brakes. When an accident occurs and one of the vehicles involved had brakes that were improperly adjusted or otherwise in need of repair, you can be cited for reckless driving. There is another part of that code which is fairly broad, as it states, “A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control”…which may be why this the most common type of reckless driving ticket handed out in Virginia.

Driving with too many passengers that impairs or obstructs the driver’s view

The main concern here is that too many passengers can create a dangerous situation in two ways. The law states that: “A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.”

An example is four people in the front seat of a vehicle (such as a pickup truck) that is designed for three. It not only obstructs the driver’s view, it also makes it difficult to operate the vehicle safely. In that scenario, it’s also unlikely that there are enough seat belts for everybody.

Passing two vehicles abreast

While it’s generally safe to pass more than one vehicle on a three-lane highway, passing more than one vehicle on a two-lane road can spell disaster. In Virginia: “A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who passes or attempts to pass two other vehicles abreast, moving in the same direction, except on highways having separate roadways of three or more lanes for each direction of travel, or on designated one-way streets or highways.” This does not include passing bicycles, mopeds or electric powered personal mobility devices.

Learn about your legal recourse if you have been charged with a Virginia reckless driving offense

In addition to fines, loss of driving privileges and possible jail time, a reckless driving conviction is an automatic six-point offense. We will put our best reckless driving defense attorney on your case and help you fight your reckless driving charge in Fairfax, Virginia. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call us at (703) 352-9347 or contact us online.

Eric Clingan
About the Author: Eric Clingan
Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations.