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Virginia Updates Its Reckless Driving Threshold Law

Driving over the speed limit can have more serious legal consequences than you might think!

Blurred road and car, speed motion background

In Virginia, there have long been serious legal consequences for speed-related reckless driving, but even so, many people may be surprised to learn that reckless driving is punishable as a criminal offense, and not simply as a traffic violation. This means that if you are convicted of this Class 1 misdemeanor, you could have your license suspended, be hit with a substantial fine, or even be sentenced to jail time. People charged with speed-related reckless driving might understandably be stunned to learn that in certain circumstances simply “moving with traffic” on I-81 could result in jail time! 

Speed-related reckless driving has long been defined in Virginia as driving over 80 miles per hour in any situation, or more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. This past July, that law was officially updated to raise the reckless driving threshold from 80 mph to 85 mph (though it is still always considered reckless driving if you are  going more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit). That means that while in the past someone driving 81 miles per hour in a 65 (or greater) mile-per-hour zone could be charged with reckless driving, and could potentially be hit with the very serious legal consequences of this criminal offense, that person would now be charged with a traffic violation, in the form of a simple speeding ticket, instead. It goes without saying that speeding is very dangerous and you shouldn’t do it, but this law-change makes it far less likely that a driver who is travelling 81 miles per hour in a 75 mph speed zone would face the possibility of jail time.

To further discourage speeding on Virginia’s fastest-moving roadways, the legislature also added a $100 increase to the fine for driving over 80 miles per hour, which will hopefully dissuade drivers from travelling at an excessive speed. This could potentially keep our roads safer by preventing some high-speed auto accidents, which tend to be deadlier than those that happen at lower speeds. For example, a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a crash that is easily survivable at 40 mph miles per hour can be fatal at 50 mph or more. 

As a driver, you should always be aware of the posted speed limit, and always adhere to the law. At Burnett & Williams we know how important it is for drivers to know and understand all traffic laws and rules, and we are here for you anytime you have a question or concern.