Many automobile accidents involve violation of one or more state traffic laws. Some violations are more common than others. Being aware of the commonly broken Virginia vehicle laws — and abiding by those laws — will make you a safer driver. Staying in compliance with the law also can significantly reduce the likelihood of receiving serious injuries in an accident.
Violations That Often Cause Accidents and Fatalities
Based on data from the Virginia Traffic Statistic Office, the top three causes of traffic injuries and fatalities are all violations of state law. The first two will not surprise anyone — they are speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Virginia’s laws on speeding and driving while intoxicated (DWI) provide varying penalties, depending on the specific circumstances of the offense. Virginia also has a separate, more severe violation and penalty for excessive speeding that is commonly cited. If you are caught driving over 81 mph, even in a 70 mph zone on an interstate highway, you will likely receive a citation for reckless driving, which is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a minimum mandatory fine of $250. In some circumstances, reckless driving can be a class 6 felony.
The violation that is the third most frequent cause of accident injuries and fatalities will surprise some people. It is the failure to use proper seat, shoulder, and child restraints, all of which constitute violations of Virginia law. That failure causes a substantial number of accident deaths and serious injuries each year.
Under Virginia law, front-seat occupants of front seats who are 16 years or older are required to use safety lap belts and harnesses. Children under 16 years old are required to be secured with a seat belt or in a car seat no matter where they sit in the vehicle.
Virginia has detailed guidelines regarding the use of car seats for children based on age, height, and weight requirements. Effective July 1, 2019, children younger than two years or under the manufacturer’s suggested weight limit will be required by law to be placed in a rear-facing seat. That requirement is the result of legislation passed by the Virginia legislature in 2018 and signed by the Governor.
The safety restraint law is not a primary offense, so you cannot be pulled over for a violation. However, if you are stopped for another violation, you can be cited for violating the seat belt or child safety restraint laws.
Other Commonly Broken Virginia Vehicle Laws
Another vehicle law that frequently causes accidents when it is violated is Virginia’s law that prohibits texting and emailing while driving. Currently, Virginia does not completely prohibit cell phone use, except for drivers under 18 years of age. In the 2018 Virginia legislative session, efforts to enact more strict distracted driving laws relating to cell phone use failed. However, it would not come as a surprise if those efforts are revived in the next legislative session.
There are a number of common violations that constitute different types of illegal maneuvers, including:
- Illegal U-turns
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to signal
- Improper passing / lane change
- Improper turning
- Following too close
Virginia also has laws that penalize conduct based on the circumstances, including driving too fast for conditions and aggressive driving. The charge of aggressive driving involves a driver who commits multiple violations specified in the law (such as failing to stay in traffic lanes, following too closely, illegal passing, and evasion of traffic control devices) and is a hazard to another person or intends to “harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person.”
One very important area of Virginia’s motor vehicle law covers your responsibilities if you are in an accident. Many drivers are not fully aware of all the duties that drivers and passengers have. Violating these laws can have significant penalties in some circumstances. The law imposes duties regarding:
- A driver’s duty to stop at the scene of an accident involving injuries to persons or damage to property;
- A passenger’s duty to report accidents involving injuries or damage;
- A driver’s and passenger’s duties in the event of an accident involving damage to unattended property.
You can read more about your duties in our blog article about what to do if you’re in an accident.
Avoid Accidents by Avoiding Violations
It can be overwhelming to be attentive to every single law and responsibility that you have as the operator of a car or other vehicle. Remember that the laws are in place to protect you and your passengers and to help prevent accidents. Just a single violation of one of these commonly broken Virginia vehicle laws can easily cause an accident.
The three violations that cause the most accidents and injuries clearly are the most important. We all know that we should not speed or drive while impaired. However, many people do not realize that a significant number of injuries and deaths result from failure to abide by the safety restraint laws. When you drive, make sure that you and all the passengers in your car use seat belts and shoulder harnesses as required. If you have children, be sure that you know what the safety restraint guidelines require to keep them safe.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered significant injuries in a Virginia accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach car accident lawyer Jeff Brooke has the experience and skill to help you. Contact us by phone at (757) 785-0837 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.