You, as a motorist, should know that really bad things happen when you drive too fast in Virginia. The commonwealth takes speeding more seriously than just about anywhere else in America, and penalties are heavy for those with a need for speed. But a new bill in the Virginia General Assembly could make things a bit more reasonable.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the state's House Transportation Subcommittee just approved a House bill that aims to raise the threshold for reckless driving from 80 mph to 85 mph. As it is now, you can be charged with reckless driving anytime you're caught driving 80 mph or more; this would allow heavy-footed motorists a bit more leeway.
The bill's chief patron, Republican Delegate Jeff Campbell, told the newspaper that raising the limit would make the law more fair.
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As you probably know by now, reckless driving isn't just a traffic ticket in Virginia; it's a serious criminal offense, classified among the highest levels of misdemeanors on the books. It's a crime on the same footing as sexual battery or aiming a firearm at someone, and it can come with lengthy jail sentences in some counties, especially if you're caught going over 100 mph.
The bill does uphold the current law that punishes driving 20 mph over the posted speed limit with a reckless driving citation. (In other words, it wouldn't be much help to idiots who get a little too overzealous in overpowered Camaros, or baseball players who go nearly double the posted limit in their Porsche 911 GT3 RS-es. Hypothetically speaking, of course.)
But you know what I think? I think it's progress. It's a step in the right direction for a state whose speed laws haven't changed in a long time and are regarded as Draconian by many residents.
Of course, the bill isn't a law yet. It still has to clear the full House Transportation Committee before it moves onto the House itself. And as the Virginian-Pilot notes, we can expect both the insurance industry and law enforcement to oppose it. From the story:
Already, nearly half of fatal car crashes in the state involve speed, said Virginia State Police Capt. Daniel Glick. The threat of a reckless driving ticket is an important deterrent, he said.
"It's got terrible consequences to it," agreed Christopher LaGow, a lobbyist for Nationwide. "You just can't change the laws of physics."
I would definitely agree that the current law is a deterrent to speeders, but I also think there are other ways to punish speeders — not drunk drivers or people who cause fatal wrecks, but speeders — than potentially life- or career-ruining jail sentences.
I'm hoping it does pass, though. In the meantime, as always, do not speed in Virginia.
This post has been updated with the correct name of the bill's author, Delegate Jeff Campbell, not Delegate Patrick Hope.