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What Constitutes Reckless Driving for Commercial Truck Drivers in Virginia?

Virginia state law requires all drivers to operate safely and follow the rules of the road. Crashes happen when drivers fail to meet these legal duties. And when the person who acts unsafely or violates a traffic law sits at the wheel of an 18-wheeler, a tanker truck, a large construction vehicle or a box truck, the results are often tragic and deadly for occupants of smaller vehicles.

Police and courts recognize two types of dangerous behavior by commercial truck drivers—negligence and recklessness. In the broadest terms, a negligent driver makes a preventable mistake while a reckless driver acts without regard to the health and lives of other people on the road.

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A range of statutes in the Virginia Code defines the difference between negligence and recklessness more precisely. For instance, exceeding a posted speed limit is generally viewed as a negligent act. Driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, however, is treated as a reckless driving offense by statute.

These are the reckless driving laws that apply most directly to commercial truck drivers in Virginia:

 

§ 46.2-853. Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle which is not under proper control or which has inadequate or improperly adjusted brakes on any highway in the Commonwealth.

§ 46.2-854. Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who, while driving a vehicle, overtakes and passes another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, on or approaching the crest of a grade or on or approaching a curve in the highway, where the driver’s view along the highway is obstructed, except where the overtaking vehicle is being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of travel or on a designated one-way roadway or highway.

§ 46.2-855. Driving with driver's view obstructed or control impaired.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver's control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

§ 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to give adequate and timely signals of intention to turn, partly turn, slow down, or stop.

§ 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who exceeds a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.

§ 46.2-861.1. Drivers to yield right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching stationary vehicles displaying certain warning lights on highways; penalties.
A. The driver of any motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary vehicle that is displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating blue, red, or amber light or lights … shall (i) on a highway having at least four lanes, at least two of which are intended for traffic proceeding as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle or (ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions.

B. The driver of any motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary vehicle that is displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating amber light or lights … (i) on a highway having at least four lanes, at least two of which are intended for traffic proceeding as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle or (ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions.

§ 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit.
A person is guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of 20 miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of 85 miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.

§ 46.2-863. Failure to yield right-of-way.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a “Yield Right-of-Way” sign is posted or (ii) where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of-way to the driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction.

§ 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, etc.
A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates any motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person:
1. On any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business or governmental property open to the public; or
2. On the premises of any industrial establishment providing parking space for customers, patrons, or employees; or
3. On any highway under construction or not yet open to the public.

The Virginia Code also contains a general rule on reckless driving that prohibits operating any vehicle in “a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.” Other specific reckless driving offenses that are less to involve large commercial trucks are

  • Street racing,
  • Passing a stopped school bus,
  • Passing at a railroad crossing,
  • Passing two abreast, and
  • Driving two vehicles abreast.

EJL

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia