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Virginia Driving and Traffic Laws

Virginia driving and traffic laws are easy to learn and straightforward to follow once you've learned them. If you're new to Virginia or planning to drive there infrequently, you'll want to go over some of the basic laws beforehand so you can be sure to follow them and avoid accidents and tickets in the state. Even if you live in VA and drive there regularly, it's a good idea to review the laws every once in a while in case you've forgotten something or it has changed.

Virginia DUI Laws

Like most states in the U.S., Virginia has strict laws about driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These laws are intended to protect both the intoxicated driver and those who might suffer harm at his hands, including his passengers and other people on the road.

In Virginia, you can be charged with driving under the influence (a DUI) if your blood alcohol level is over 0.08%. An officer can ask you for a test based on blood, breath, urine, or any combination of those that he requires. You must submit to this request, or your driver's license will be suspended for an amount of time between 7 days and 1 year.

You can be charged with a DUI even if your blood alcohol level is under 0.08%, if a police officer has reason to believe that your driving is being impaired by any amount of alcohol in your system. In addition, you can receive a DUI for having narcotic drugs, illegal drugs, or any combination of drugs and alcohol in your body.

There is a zero tolerance policy in place in VA for drivers under the age of 21. This means that you will be charged with a DUI for having any alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle if you are under that age.

Virginia's DUI penalties are stiff. The first time you are charged with a DUI, you will be fined and face a suspension of your driver's license for up to one year. These penalties will be even higher if your blood alcohol level is above a certain level. If you are convicted of a DUI more than once, you will face a larger fine, a longer suspension of your license, and a prison term. If you are charged with a DUI and have someone under the age of 17 in your car at the time, you face at least 5 additional days in jail, larger fines and mandatory community service.

In addition to all of these penalties, your auto insurance will be adversely affected by any DUI. At the very least, your rates will rise, to the point that some people are not able to afford car insurance after receiving a DUI. Sometimes, your insurance company will drop you and it will be difficult for you to find automobile insurance at any price.

Virginia Cell Phone Laws

Using a cell phone while driving used to be allowed across the country. However, injuries and fatalities due to accidents caused by a driver using his or her phone while on the road have increased, so many states have implemented laws to limit the use of all mobile devices while driving.

Virginia is no stranger to this type of proceeding. As of July 2009, no driver in Virginia is allowed to text or email using a mobile device while driving. This is a primary offense, meaning that you can be pulled over if an officer sees you breaking this law, even if you haven't broken any other laws. Note that talking on a cell phone is still legal in Virginia, even without the use of a hands free device.

In addition to the anti-texting law, school bus drivers are not allowed to use their cell phones at all while transporting children. This is to ensure the safety of both kids who use the bus for transportation as well as that of other drivers around these large vehicles.

Drivers under the age of 18 are also prohibited from using cell phones while driving under any circumstances. Even in case of an emergency, these drivers must pull over and stop their vehicle if they need to make a call. However, this is considered a secondary violation, so an officer cannot pull someone over just for breaking this law. There must be some other traffic offense involved.

Other Virginia Driving and Traffic Laws

Most people, when driving in a new place, are particularly concerned about following the speed limit. The highest permitted speed in Virginia is 65 miles per hour, which is only allowed on interstate highways going through areas designated as rural. If you are not sure about the designation of a particular stretch of highway and do not see a speed limit sign, keep your speed under 55 miles per hour, because this is the speed for all other interstate highways and secondary routes including public roads and streets that are not part of the interstate system. If you are driving in a school, business, or residential zone, you need to keep your speed at or below 25 miles per hour.

Each moving violation or ticket you receive in Virginia will result in a certain number of demerit points against your license. The number of these points depends on the severity of the offense. If you are an adult driver who receives 8 demerit points in any one-year period or 12 demerit points in any two-year period, you will receive a letter advising you of this and cautioning you to obey the law. if you receive 12 demerit points in any one-year period or 18 in any two-year period, the state of Virginia requires you to take a driver improvement clinic. If you receive 18 demerit points in any one-year period or 24 in any two-year period, your driver's license will be suspended for 90 days and you will be required to complete a driver improvement clinic to reinstate it. If you are a younger driver, your penalties will be different. It is easier for younger drivers to have their driver's licenses revoked.

If you're driving in Virginia with children under the age of 16 in your vehicle, they must wear a seat belt at all times. In addition, all children under the age of 8 must be in a child safety seat that is approved by the state, used and installed appropriately, and appropriate for their age and weight. This law applies to anyone transporting children, whether they are your own or someone else's. All rear-facing child safety seats must be installed in the back seat of a vehicle, unless the vehicle does not have a back seat and does not have a passenger side airbag, or it has been disabled.

While these are some of the most important and most commonly violated laws in Virginia, there are many more laws that the state will require you to follow. If you still feel unsure about driving in Virginia or would like specific information about a particular law or kind of law, contact the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles through their website at http://www.dmv.state.va.us. They will have the most detailed, up-to-date information available about Virginia driving and traffic laws.

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