A new law went into effect in Virginia on July 1 that raises the reckless driving threshold from 80 mph to 85 mph on some of the state’s busiest highways. Senate Bill 63 was passed by the Senate in January, the House in March and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in April. Under the previous law, the reckless driving threshold was 20 mph over the posted speed limit or 80 mph regardless of the posted speed limit. The new law raises the 80 mph threshold to 85 mph.

When the bill was being debated by the legislature, its supporters pointed out that the 80 mph reckless driving threshold was put into place when the maximum speed limit on Virginia highways was 65 mph. In 2010, the speed limit on stretches of Interstate 81 and Interstate 95 was raised to 70 mph. Opponents of the bill said that traveling at speeds above 80 mph is not safe no matter what the posted speed limit may be.

The penalties for reckless driving are severe in Virginia. Under the old law, motorists caught driving 10 mph over the speed limit on some stretches of highway could be fined as much as $2,500 and sent to jail for up to a year. Supporters of the measure said these punishments were extreme. The time between the governor signing the bill and the law going into effect gave the Virginia Department of Transportation the time it needed to remove or replace approximately 12 signs on I-81 and I-95 that mentioned the old threshold.

Motorists in Virginia who are cited for reckless driving may be wise to consult with a criminal defense experienced in these matters. In addition to fines and possible jail time, individuals convicted of reckless driving have six points added to their driver’s licenses and could find it extremely difficult to find affordable automobile insurance. Attorneys could seek to reduce these penalties or even have reckless driving charges dismissed.

Source: Land Line, “Virginia revises reckless driving, passing rules”, Keith Goble, April 23, 2020