Reckless Driving in Virginia – A Misdemeanor Offense

By: Seth Peritz, Senior Attorney
July 1, 2019 addition to reckless driving - Va. Code §46.2-861.1

Aside from all of the Reckless Driving statutes that have been in existence for a while, recently, the Legislature passed a law making passing an emergency vehicle on the roadway a misdemeanor offense and combined it with the other Reckless Driving statutes.

What this means is passing a stationary vehicle on the side of the road whose blue, red, white or amber emergency lights are activated without slowing down or moving over is a class 1 misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to $2500, and up to 12 months in jail. Additionally, the legislature has included 2 new license suspension provisions to this statute. Reckless Driving normally only carries a maximum of a 6 month loss of license, however, if the violation of this statute results in property damage, then the court could suspend your license for up to 1 year, and if the violation results in injury or death to another person, then the court can suspend your license for up to 2 years. This makes this statute far more severe than it had been.

There are specific instances where the violation of this statute would not be a crime. Specifically, if you are passing vehicles with a specific type of amber lights. Vehicles that are permitted to use these lights are outlined in another statute but generally they are non-emergency vehicles, such as tow trucks and maintenance vehicles. Knowing whether the vehicle you passed qualifies could be very difficult to determine, so having an attorney who can dive into the 5 statutes that are cross referenced can be very helpful.

Finally, there is one safe harbor, and that is you are driving through a highway work zone, which is also governed by a different code section.

If you are charged with a violation of Va. Code §46.2-861.1 – Drivers to yield right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching stationary vehicles displaying certain warning lights on highways – please feel free to contact us at Robinson Law. We can help determine if the violation is/should be a misdemeanor or a traffic infraction and assist you in handling your case.