Driving in Virginia in the winter can be a dangerous and overwhelming experience. While Virginia may not get the kind of storms that people experience farther north, snow and ice accumulation on the roads still happen. There is also the increased presence of drunk drivers on the road during the holiday season.
Taking extra precautions to keep yourself and your passengers safe on winter roads is always a good idea. In order to stay safe on the roads, you need to adjust your driving habits to reflect the risks and hazards, including inclement weather and heavy traffic during holiday commutes. Failing to properly change your driving behaviors could result in charges of reckless driving.
The way you drive should reflect road conditions
While it is true that traffic laws remain the same year round, that does not mean that you can drive in the same manner in December and January that you would in June and July.
When the weather is okay and the roads are clear, you can likely still travel at the same speeds. However, when the roads become slippery and dangerous, you need to decrease your overall speed to keep yourself and other people on the road safe. Failing to do so could mean causing an accident. Even if your driving does not cause a collision, it could inspire law enforcement to cite you for reckless driving.
Under Virginia law, reckless driving involves operating a vehicle in a way that endangers other people, even if you aren't exceeding the posted speed limit. Traveling close to the speed limit on a highway or rural road could, in fact, be reckless in certain weather conditions. You don't even have to directly violate posted traffic laws and speed limits to wind up charged with reckless driving in Virginia.
Reckless driving carries significant penalties as a Class 1 misdemeanor
Traffic violations and criminal offenses in Virginia have a specific classification assigned to them. In most cases, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It carries significant penalties, including up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $2,500. While judges don't always assign jail time or the maximum fine, the potential is there for serious consequences, including a criminal record.
Adjusting your driving to adverse winter weather conditions is a good idea. If you find yourself charged with reckless driving despite not breaking any road rules or causing a crash, you have the right to defend yourself against your pending citation. With a little bit of planning, you may be able to avoid a conviction or have the courts throw out the citation in certain circumstances.