In a change of pace for the Old Dominion State, two new Virginia traffic laws that took effect July 1 are actually less punitive than the existing statutes.
The first law, HB 2201, changes the penalty for failing to drive on the right side of a highway. The peculiar title of the bill — “Failure to drive on right side of highways or observe traffic lanes; increases penalties” — would seem to indicate the commonwealth’s legislature is getting tough with careless drivers. Yet, the new law actually reduces the fine from a maximum of $250 to a certain $100.
The second law is HB 2467, affecting cases of driving on a license suspended for failure to pay court-ordered fines and costs. The law provides that additional suspensions for driving on the suspended license shall run concurrently with the original suspension. Under the old law, the first suspension would run and then the second would be added on.
How might this change in the law affect a driver? Let’s say Mr. Smith got a traffic ticket he did not pay, so the court suspended his driving privileges until the fine and penalties are paid. Two weeks into his suspension, Mr. Smith is caught driving on a suspended license, and the court issues a 90-day suspension. Under the old law, Mr. Smith’s first suspension is lifted when he pays his original obligation, and then he begins serving his 90-day suspension. If it took him another month to pay what he owes, his total suspension could run 120 days. Under the new law, the 90-suspension starts running immediately. So, if Mr. Smith pays his obligations, his total suspension need not be longer than the additional 90 days.
This new leniency does not apply to persons driving with a license suspended for an underlying traffic offense, such as a DUI, or an accumulation of penalty points.
Finally, in what might be considered a questionable move at best, the Virginia General Assembly authorized the state’s DMV commissioner to issue special license plates for supporters of highway safety. Among the safety tips listed on the plates was an awareness of distracted driving. As auto accident attorneys, we are in favor of combatting distracted driving throughout the states we serve, but we also wonder what could be more distracting than struggling to read the fine print on the license plate of the vehicle in front of you. Perhaps the tagline should say, “If you can read this, you are following too closely.”
Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban manages a wide variety of personal injury cases, including those involving auto accidents caused by distracted drivers. If you are injured in a Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina car crash, you can trust us to fight for your rights. Call (888) 351-1038 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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