Drivers in Virginia should be aware of new laws that will take effect on July 1, 2020. The recently passed legislation bans the use of handheld cell phones while driving, and changes criteria for driver’s license suspensions for certain non-driving related offenses.
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Handheld cell phones and other devices banned while driving
House Bill 874 will create a total ban on the use of handheld mobile devices when driving, with the exception of motorists who are lawfully stopped and parked. Please note that this law has a delayed effective date of January 01, 2021.
Drivers cannot smoke in motor vehicles when a child under the age of 15 is present
This expands on previous legislation that made it unlawful to smoke in a motor vehicle in the presence of minors under the age of 8.
Drivers must stop when yielding to pedestrians
All vehicle drivers must stop when yielding to pedestrians at:
- Marked crosswalks
- Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block
- Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is no more than 35 mph
Driving in excess of 85 mph = reckless driving
The new law raises the threshold for per se reckless driving for speeding from driving in excess of 80 miles per hour to driving in excess of 85 miles per hour. The threshold for per se reckless driving for speeding for driving at or more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit remains unchanged. The bill also provides that any person who drives a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of 80 miles per hour but below 86 miles per hour on any highway in the Commonwealth having a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour shall be subject to an additional fine of $100.
1st offenders for breathalyzer/blood test refusal can petition for restricted license
HB 34 allows a person convicted of a first offense of refusal of breathalyzer or blood tests to determine BAC to petition the court (30 days after the conviction) for a restricted driver’s license. The restricted license is not applicable to commercial motor vehicles.
Driver’s licenses no longer suspended for nonpayment of fines or costs
The Department of Motor Vehicles must return or reinstate any person’s driver’s license that was suspended prior to July 1, 2019, solely for nonpayment of fines or costs. Any person who is convicted of violating the law cannot have their driver’s license suspended just because they are unable to or refuse to pay fines and costs.
Certain non-driving related offenses cannot prompt license suspension
A person’s driver’s license cannot be suspended based on the following provisions:
- A deferred disposition for a drug offense, or drug offense conviction
- Non-payment of certain fees owed to a regional jail or correctional facility
- For shoplifting motor fuel