Most times, when you break traffic laws and get caught, the worst consequence you face is the risk of a ticket, which could cost several hundred dollars and increase the premium you pay for your motor vehicle liability insurance. So long as you don’t cause a crash, you probably don’t worry too much about the consequences.
However, sometimes drivers seem to have done something particularly dangerous that concerns law enforcement officers and compels them to upgrade the offense from a mere traffic violation to a reckless driving offense. Unlike typical speeding offenses or other traffic violations, reckless driving is actually a crime in Virginia. That means that pleading guilty could result in a criminal record, as well as up to $2,500 in fines alone.
As with many traffic issues, much is left to the discretion of the officer involved when determining whether a driver’s actions constitute reckless driving, which could mean that a perfectly innocent driving mistake results in misdemeanor or even felony criminal charges.
How does Virginia define reckless driving?
Virginia’s definition of reckless driving is broad. It includes any number of driving habits that potentially endanger the life, limb or property of other people. A wide range of potential traffic mistakes can result in an officer alleging that you were driving recklessly.
Speeding is a common cause of reckless driving allegations. There are two different scenarios in which exceeding the speed limit can result in reckless driving charges. The first is if a driver goes 20 miles or more over the posted speed limit, regardless of how fast their final speed is. Driving at speeds faster than 80 miles an hour can also result in reckless driving charges, even if the driver isn’t going 20 miles an hour more than the posted speed limit in that area.
Other than speeding, what driving mistakes could constitute reckless driving?
Although it may seem obvious, racing on public roads can also lead to charges of reckless driving, even if the drivers weren’t going exceptionally fast. There are a number of passing infractions that can lead to reckless driving allegations, including passing a school bus or emergency vehicle, passing any vehicles at the top of a hill, passing at a railroad crossing, or maneuvering through two lanes or more to pass a vehicle or two vehicles next to one another.
Driving dangerously fast in severe weather, driving while something obstructs your windshield and even driving the wrong way down a one-way street by accident could all result and allegations of reckless driving. Depending on the exact circumstances, reckless driving is typically a misdemeanor, but the state can also bring felony reckless driving charges against someone.
In addition to fines and court costs, you will have to deal with secondary expenses, including the long-term impact of a reckless driving conviction on your insurance premiums.