Traffic Safety Laws

Having effective traffic safety laws in place to ensure Virginians remain safe on our roadways is critical. DRIVE SMART Virginia has been the champion of traffic safety since our inception. We work to protect all Virginians as they travel on the roadways. We advocate for tougher laws when we believe it will improve traffic safety. We educate Virginia residents on current laws and any upcoming changes.

Virginia drivers can be arrested when their behavior behind the wheel is a hazard to others with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person and when they commit at least one of the following:

  • failure to drive on the right side of the highway,
  • failure to drive in lanes marked for vehicle traffic,
  • following too closely,
  • failure to yield the right of way,
  • failure to obey traffic control devices,
  • passing on the right,
  • speeding, or
  • stopping [unnecessarily in a travel lane] on a highway.

Aggressive driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor; however, aggressive driving with the intent to injure another person becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,500 fine, a year in jail, or both.

To learn more, read the full law.

All children under the age of eight must be properly restrained in a child restraint device when traveling in a motor vehicle.  Virginia law is based entirely on age (previous versions of the Code were based on age and weight combinations). Rear-facing child restraint devices must be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. In the event the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if 1) the vehicle is not equipped with a passenger side airbag, or 2) the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.
Children and teens from ages 8 to 18 must be buckled up. Motor vehicle operators may be stopped and ticketed by law enforcement officers for this offense, even if other infractions are not present (i.e. primary law).

A $50 civil penalty fine may be imposed for failure to have a child in a child restraint device. Any person found guilty a second or subsequent time, on different dates, may be fined up to $500.

To learn more, read the full law.

Graduated licensing is a system designed to implement full licensure in stages and under controlled conditions. Beginning drivers are given the opportunity to become more experienced under lower risk conditions.

A juvenile may apply for a learner’s permit if he or she is at least 15 years and six months of age. During this timeframe, students are expected to successfully complete a state-approved driver education program, including a road test, as well as complete 45 hours behind the wheel, with 15 of those being after sunset.

After holding a learner’s permit for nine months, and with written permission from the parent, a student may apply for a driver’s license. If the student successfully passes the final road test, the school will issue him or her a certificate. The certificate, combined with a learner’s permit, acts as a valid driver’s license for 180 days. Within the 180 day period, the student will receive notice to attend a juvenile and domestic relations court licensing ceremony where he or she will receive a driver’s license. Drivers under age 18 have the following restrictions on their driver’s license:

  • Prohibits driving with more than one non-family passenger less than 18 years old until the holder has held a provisional license for one year, and no more than three non-family passengers less than 18 years old until age 18.
  • Restricts licensed drivers younger than 18 years old from operating a vehicle between midnight and 4 a.m., except when driving (i) to and from work; (ii) to and from a school sponsored activity; (iii) when accompanied by a parent or person in loco parentis, or by a spouse who is 18 years old or older; (iv) in cases of emergency; or (v) when responding to fire or some other emergency as a volunteer firefighter or rescue worker.
  • Prohibits drivers under age 18 from using cell phones or wireless communication devices while driving, regardless of hand-held or hands-free, except in a driver emergency and the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped.
  • Requires passengers younger than 18 years of age who are occupying the rear seats of a vehicle to use safety belts.

To learn more, read the full law.

There are five ways to violate Virginia’s DUI law; 1) operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level above 0.08;  2) operating a vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol; (3) operating a vehicle while “under the influence” of drugs;  4) operating a vehicle while “under the influence of both alcohol and drugs; and 5) operating a vehicle with a blood cocaine level of 0.02, a blood methamphetamine (“speed,” “meth,” “ice”) level of 0.10, a blood phencyclidine (“PCP,” “angel dust”) level of 0.01, or a blood 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“MDMA,” “ecstasy”) level of 0.10.

Before being arrested, a person may submit to a preliminary breath test, if one is available. This test cannot be used against that individual at trial, but can be used against him/her during pretrial motions and other non-DUI charges. There is no penalty for refusing this preliminary breath test and the arresting officer has to advise an individual of this.

The punishment for violations of DUI varies depending upon whether the offense is a first, second, or subsequent offense. It also depends upon whether the blood alcohol level exceeded certain amounts or whether a child was in the car at the time of the arrest. A DUI conviction can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.

In some instances, the court must require an individual convicted of DUI to install an “ignition interlock” device on their car. This is a breath test device that one must blow into in order to start the car, and to blow into when directed to do so by the device while driving.

If convicted of DUI, driving privileges in Virginia will be lost for one year. A second conviction results in a three-year loss. A third conviction results in an indefinite loss (5 years minimum). Under certain circumstances, a court can permit an individual to have limited driving privileges (such as driving to and from work).

Those convicted of DUI must enter and complete an alcohol education program administered by the state.

To learn more, read the full law.

Virginia law requires that passengers 18 years or over occupying the front seat be buckled (though there are exceptions to this law for mail carriers, newspaper delivery persons, taxi drivers and passengers, waste collectors, and certain others). Non-adherence to this section of the Code is punishable by a $25 fine.

To learn more, read the full law.

Click here to compare Virginia’s seatbelt law to the law in other states.

The intent of this law is to protect police and public safety officials who frequently work on the side of the road.  Drivers must 1) yield the right of way to any stationary vehicle that is displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating blue, red, or amber light or lights; 2) reduce speed when approaching emergency vehicles stopped alongside the road; and 3) move to a travel lane further away from the stopped vehicles, when traffic conditions safely permit such a move.

Non-adherence to this section of the Code is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor traffic infraction, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, and/or up to a $2,500 fine. In certain cases it could also result in suspension of the driver’s privileges to operate a motor vehicle.

To learn more, read the full law.

Beginning July 1, 2013 texting while driving becomes a primary traffic offense in Virginia.

It is illegal for any person operating a moving motor vehicle on the state’s highways to use any handheld personal communications device to manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person. It is also unlawful to read any email or text message currently transmitted to or previously stored within the device.

Exceptions are made for 1) emergency vehicles; 2) an operator who is lawfully parked or stopped; 3) the use of factory-installed or after-market global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or 4) any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.

Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250.

Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, (i) was driving without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and, (ii) as the sole and proximate result of his reckless driving, caused the death of another, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

The punishment for every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, was in violation of § 46.2-1078.1 shall include a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

To learn more, read the full law.