New Va. Driving Laws to Go into Effect July 1

May 25, 2010

Virginians age 17 and younger who ride in the back seat of a vehicle must wear a seat belt starting July 1, and violators face a $25 fine.

The current law requires passengers under age 16 to be belted in the back seat. Drivers will be responsible for making sure all passengers under age 18 are secured in a safety restraint or car seat.

Passengers 18 and older are responsible for themselves and face the $25 fine for riding unrestrained. Current law already requires everyone in the front seat to wear a seat belt.

In Virginia, 562 unbelted, back seat passengers ages 16 to 18 were injured from 2006 through 2008 in Virginia, and 22 were killed. The average annual cost including health care for the three-year period is estimated to be $20 million.

Several other transportation laws were passed during the recent General Assembly session, and one focuses on driver's license suspensions.

Currently, when a person is convicted of refusing to take a breath test, the court suspends their driving privilege for one year. If that person is also convicted of driving under the influence, the DUI driver's license suspension period will run consecutively with the breath test refusal suspension.

In addition, after July 1, if a driver's license is revoked for a first or second DUI conviction and the driver receives another DUI, the license suspension period will run consecutively with the existing revocation period.

Another new law adds driving to and from "a place of religious worship" and "court-ordered child support appointments" to the list of reasons why a court may issue a restricted driver's license. A court may grant restricted driving privileges to drivers convicted of certain offenses, and DMV may grant a restricted license when drivers are suspended for violating a driver improvement program probation.

An additional driving-related law taking effect July 1 impacts school bus drivers. It states that if bus drivers possess or consume alcoholic beverages while operating a school bus that's transporting children, they are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. If convicted, the penalties for the new law are in addition to penalties associated with existing DUI laws.

Lawmakers also put tighter restrictions on those who drive without a valid driver's license. Starting July 1, if a person is caught driving without a license and has previously been convicted of this offense, he or she could lose their vehicle for three days.

However, if the offender gets a valid driver's license during the three-day vehicle impoundment period, the vehicle will be released to the driver.

The General Assembly additionally passed a law effective July 1 that allows golf carts to cross highways in certain circumstances. Golf cart owners in towns with a population of 2,000 or less may cross a highway at an intersection that is marked as a golf cart crossing with signs.

The roadway's speed limit must be 35 miles per hour or less, and the crossing has to be the only way the golf cart may travel from one part of the town to another.

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