Overview of Reckless Driving, Improper Driving, and Speeding
Driving violations occur every day all over the country. Many people do not take the time to understand these laws until they are adversely affected by them. Don’t let that be you!
If that is you, though, and you are looking for more information for a traffic violation that has just occurred, you are in the right place. This column will provide an overview of reckless driving, improper driving, and speeding, and then close with a recommendation for you to contest a violation - regardless of which one it is - in court.
Overview of Reckless Driving:
The Code of Virginia generally defines reckless driving as driving “a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person”. This definition expands to cover specific examples of what it means to be driving in a reckless manner. The Department of Motor Vehicles has a full list, but here are some of them:
- Speeding in excess of 80 miles per hour;
- Speeding 20 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit;
- Passing/overtaking an emergency vehicle, a school bus, on the crest of a hill, or at a railroad crossing; or
- Failing to give a proper signal.
A conviction of reckless driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which may result in a jail sentence of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500.00. Further, these violations can remain on your driving record for 11 years. They are also known as “six point violations,” which means that six demerit points are placed on your driving record during the length allowed (again, usually 11 years).
With these severe consequences, a good attorney is important. You want to appear in court with an experienced attorney at your side, especially if “improper driving” is a possibility.
Improper driving is a possibility for anyone who is initially charged with reckless driving, but upon trial, it is determined that his/her “degree of culpability is slight”. Note the words “upon trial”. You will not receive a ticket from a police officer for improper driving. You can only receive this charge if it is determined that your actions while driving were not reckless in nature.
The penalties for improper driving are much less severe. Improper driving is not a crime but rather, merely a traffic violation. The points against your driving record will only be three and those points will probably only last on your driving record for three years. Most importantly, the fine is likely to be less for improper driving compared to the charge of reckless driving.
By law, any driver can be charged with speeding who is travelling over the posted speed limit. Drivers who are caught speeding have to pay a fine. Typically, that fine is $6 for each mile per hour over the speed limit plus court costs. These offenses, just like improper driving, are usually three point offenses, although speeds that are 10-19 miles per hour over the speed limit are usually four point offenses.
Need for a Lawyer:
If you have ever been pulled over for a traffic violation, you know how it works. The officer writes out a ticket for your violation, hands you the yellow copy, and tells you to drive safely. On that yellow ticket, there is a time and date for court.
Depending on the offense, you may not have the option to prepay the ticket and must appear in court. Maybe you were “only” charged with speeding. The temptation is there to avoid court and simply pay the fine associated with the charge. However, there are other outcomes that are possible only by appearing in court and contesting the charge. For example, it is possible that the charge will be dropped if you agree to a driver improvement course. While these courses cost money, it will still save you from a conviction and the corresponding points on your driving record.
Understand your options. Call or e-mail today to schedule a free consultation!
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