Reckless driving is a large diverse crime. There are many ways to be guilty of Reckless Driving. This blog will review all the various types of reckless driving in Virginia and the related offenses such as Improper Driving and Aggressive Driving.
Va. Code §46.2-862(i) & (ii): Reckless by Speed
A driver can be convicted for reckless driving by either 1) going 20 mph over the speed limit or 2) driving over 80 mph. Therefore, a person driving 35 mph in 15 mph zone is guilty of reckless driving, and a person driving 81 mph in a 65 mph zone is also guilty of reckless driving.
Va. Code § 46.2-861: Reckless by Excessive Speed for the Conditions
Driving at or below the speed limit can still be considered reckless driving if the road conditions are not safe enough for that speed. For example, a person driving 65 mph in a 65 mph zone during a snow storm or heavy rain could be charged with reckless driving if the road conditions are not safe enough for that speed.
Va. Code § 46.2-852: Reckless Driving General Rule
Driving on a public road in a way that endangers anyone’s “life, limb, or property" can be reckless driving. This statute is a catch-all for any unsafe driving practices, such as driving the wrong way down a one-way street, driving asleep at the wheel, parking on a highway, and other similar practices.
Va. Code § 46.2-864: Reckless in Parking Lot
This statute covers driving that endangers “life, limb or property" on private property open to the public and on public roads under construction. The most common examples of private property open to the public are parking lots.
Va. Code §46.2-859: Reckless by Passing a School Bus
Passing a school bus that is equipped with warning signs and flashing lights while it is stopped to load or unload passengers is considered reckless driving. The driver must remain stopped until the passengers are all clear of the road or until the bus starts moving. This rule does not apply if there is a physical barrier separating the driver’s lane of traffic from the school bus.
Va. Code § 46.2-853: Reckless by Improper Control/Faulty Brakes
Driving a vehicle that is not under proper control or has faulty brakes is considered reckless driving. Often, when an officer arrives on the scene of an accident, the driver will try to avoid responsibility by blaming the car for the accident. The driver then ends up getting charged with reckless driving. If a driver tells a police officer that the accident occurred because the car’s brakes, steering, or gas pedal malfunctioned, that driver runs the risk of getting charged with reckless driving. Though it is not in the statute, if drivers in this situation can demonstrate that they had no warning that their car was faulty, they will likely avoid conviction.
Va. Code § 46.2-855: Reckless by Driving with Impaired Control/View Because of Passengers
Driving with passengers that obstruct the driver’s front or side view, or impair the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle, is reckless driving. The most common example of this type of reckless driving occurs in trucks with bench seats. If the middle passenger’s legs get in the way of the gear shift, or if the middle passenger is large enough to block the view of the right side-view mirror, then the drive could be charged with reckless driving. Often, law enforcement officers charge drivers with this form of reckless driving when there are more passengers than seat belts in the front seat regardless of whether the driver’s view was actually obstructed.
Va. Code § 46.2-854: Reckless by Passing on a Curve
Passing a car on the crest of hill, on a curve, or anywhere with an obstructed view of oncoming traffic is reckless driving.
Va. Code §46.2-856: Reckless by Passing Two Vehicles Abreast
Reckless driving can also include passing two vehicles at the same time by driving on the shoulder or in the on-coming traffic lane(s) on a highway with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction.
Va. Code § 46.2-857: Reckless by Driving Two Abreast in a Single Lane
It is considered reckless driving for two vehicles (other than bikes, motorcycles, or similar vehicles) to travel in the same lane, or for one vehicle to pass another without completely leaving the original lane.
Va. Code § 46.2-858: Reckless by Passing at a Railroad or Pedestrian Crossing
If a driver passes another vehicle at a railroad crossing or while a pedestrian is crossing in front of the passed vehicle, the driver may be charged for reckless driving. There is an exception to this rule if there are multiple lanes dedicated for passing or if the road is marked for passing with a dashed yellow line.
Va. Code § 46.2-860: Reckless by Failing to Signal
It is considered reckless driving to turn, slow down, or stop without giving a proper signal. When turning, the driver must continuously signal for 50 feet before turning if the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. Otherwise, the drive must signal for 100 feet.
Va. Code § 46.2-863: Reckless by Failure to Yield
Reckless driving also includes cutting off a vehicle on a highway when entering from a side road. If a driver enters a highway from a side road without a yield sign the driver 1) must come to a stop before entering the highway, and 2) must not pull in front of a vehicle that is less than 500 feet away.
Va. Code § 46.2-865: Reckless by Racing
Racing vehicles on public property at any time or on private property open to the public (such as parking lots) without permission is reckless driving. Racing also comes with an elevated punishment that includes suspension of the driver’s license for at least six months and up to two years.
There are several charges related to reckless driving that a driver should be aware of either because they are more severe forms of reckless driving or because they are convenient compromises between convicting a driver of reckless driving and dismissing the charges.
Va. Code § 46.2-868(B): Reckless when Suspended and Causes Death
If a driver causes the death of another while driving recklessly with a license that has been suspended for moving violations (including DUI, excessive demerit points, or reckless driving), then that person will be convicted of a Class 6 felony and can serve up to five years in jail. This charge is particularly severe because the death can be completely accidental and does not have to be due to any negligence.
For example, a driver loses his license because of excessive traffic tickets but continues to drive occasionally for work. One day, he is driving a work vehicle down the highway with too many people in the front seat. The car’s tire ruptures because of a defect in the tire. The car spins out of control and hits a tree, killing a passenger in the car. That driver can go to jail for up to five years.
Va. Code §46.2-865.1: Injury While Racing
Anyone who races with a wanton and reckless disregard for human life and causes an accident shall be convicted of a Class 6 felony if that person injures a bystander. That driver can serve up to five years in jail. If the driver causes the death of any person, he will serve from one to 20 years in jail. In both cases, the driver shall lose his license for one to three years.
Va. Code § 46.2-866: Aiding and Abetting Racing
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to aid or abet in racing even if the person is not actually racing. Aiding and abetting can be as simple as passing along information about when and where a race is to be held or keeping an eye out for police. A person convicted of aiding and abetting a race can serve up to 12 months in jail.
Va. Code § 46.2-868.1: Aggressive Driving
Aggressive driving is the little brother of reckless driving. Aggressive driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor and can result in up to six months in jail. However, if a driver drives “aggressively" with the intent to injure someone, then the charge becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor and can result in up to 12 months in jail.
There are almost as many ways to be convicted of aggressive driving as there are to be convicted of reckless driving, including the following ways:
§ 46.2-802 (drive on right side of highways),
§ 46.2-804 (failure to observe lanes marked for traffic),
§ 46.2-816 (following too closely),
§ 46.2-821 (vehicles before entering certain highways shall stop or yield right-of-way),
§ 46.2-833.1 (evasion of traffic control devices),
§ 46.2-838 (passing when overtaking a vehicle),
§ 46.2-841 (when overtaking vehicle may pass on right),
§ 46.2-842 (driver to give way to overtaking vehicle),
§ 46.2-842.1 (driver to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highway),
§ 46.2-843 (limitations on overtaking and passing),
§ 46.2-888 (stopping on highways, and (i) that person is a hazard to another person or commits an offense in clause (ii) with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person), and
§ 46.2-870 (speeding).
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 instead of a criminal charge. This decision is completely up to the prosecutor and the judge; that is why it is important to hire an attorney who has a good relationship with the prosecutor.
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