Well that didn’t take long! Faster than a Porsche goes from 0 to 80 miles per hour in Northern Virginia traffic, a General Assembly subcommittee killed HB 1371, which would have eliminated criminal penalties for some speeding cases where the posted speed limit is high. The subcommittee action occurred on the first day of the 2013 legislative session.
In Virginia, one can be convicted of Reckless Driving by speed if one drives over 80 miles per hour no matter what the speed limit. Otherwise, criminal speeding penalties apply only to those driving 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.
When the maximum speed limit in Virginia was 55 miles per hour, an 80 mile per hour cap was not much of a big deal — criminal penalties began to apply at speeds above 75 miles per hour anyway. However, in recent years, the speed limits on many roads have increased. The highest speed limit in Virginia is 70 miles per hour. However, as the speed limit increased, the 80 mile per hour Reckless Driving threshold was never changed. Thus, one can be convicted of criminal Reckless Driving if speeding only 11 miles over the posted limit. This small margin surprises a number of motorists.
Those opposed to increasing the speed threshold cite the danger of high speed driving. They also appear to be drifting away from the perverse practice where the posted limit was not the “real” limit and everyone expected to drive up to 10 miles per hour over the posted limit. Virginia policymakers seem to be taking the position that, since everyone is driving 10 miles over the limit the state should simply raise the limit to that which the public are voting with their gas pedals — however, they want this new, higher posted speed limit to, itself, be the “real” speed limit.
Reckless Driving is a crime in Virginia — a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, a license suspension of up to 6 months, and six demerit points on one’s license. Conversely, Speeding is a mere traffic violation, not a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $250.