- William J. HowellSpeaker of the House - Virginia House of Delegates
- Ralph NorthamLieutenant Governor of Virginia
- Charles CarricoState Senator
Stop Convicting Soccer Moms: Change Virginia Reckless Driving Laws
In Virginia, the top highway speed limit is 70 mph and driving on an open freeway faster than 80 mph can get you a criminal reckless driving conviction — facing up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500, plus, thousands of dollars in legal fees. Since the flow of traffic is often 10 or more miles per hour over the speed limit on a freeway, driving with the flow of traffic on a freeway can make you a criminal and get you a year in jail.
It doesn’t make any sense to make criminals out of soccer moms driving with the flow of traffic on the freeway. But too often governments are criminalizing ordinary behavior that used to draw a simple fine. This is a growing problem. As government becomes less responsive and more intrusive, it begins to treat law-abiding citizens, like soccer moms and dads, as subjects over whom it rules — rather than as citizens to be governed with respect and fairness.
Government needs to respect its citizens. When it does, it won’t criminalize insanely idiotic things like driving with the flow of traffic on an open freeway. Reasonable traffic fines are one thing, but criminal convictions and jail time and criminal fines are simply over-the-top, and evidence that the government is unresponsive, unfair and out-of-control.
The Commonwealth of Virginia should be ashamed and embarrassed for criminalizing simply driving with the flow of traffic on Virginia’s open freeways. The government should be serving and protecting law-abiding citizens — not finding new senseless ways to make soccer moms criminals.
The Governor, the House of Delates and the State Senate all must bear the blame for this unjust and abusive exercise of raw governmental power. For years, Virginia has had the chance to fix this bad law, but instead they have protected special interests and left soccer moms to be unjustly labeled criminals. This is a disgrace.
I join thousands of other Virginians in calling upon the Governor and the Virginia’s Delegates and Senators to change the law and making garden-variety speeding a traffic violation, not a crime. Reckless driving should be determined by the facts and circumstances of the event, not by simply driving a little too fast.
- Speaker of the House - Virginia House of Delegates
William J. Howell
- Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
- State Senator
Over criminalization is a growing problem. Government at every level continues to grow larger and larger and continues to look for new things to regulate, mandate and punish. One example is in Virginia, where the top speed limit on open freeways is clearly posted at 70 MPH. However, what few drivers realize is that driving at a speed greater than 80 miles per hour — a mere 11 miles per hour over the top speed limit — is criminal reckless driving under Virginia law and carries up to one year of jail time and $2,500 in criminal fines.
Driving on an open freeway, the flow of traffic is typically somewhere between 78 and 85 miles per hour. Let that sink in — driving with the flow of traffic on a freeway can make you a criminal and you can spend up to a year in jail and receive heavy criminal fines of up to $2,500, plus thousands in legal fees. Making criminals of soccer moms for driving a little too fast is an abuse of power. Traffic fines are to be expected, but jail time and criminal fines should be out of bounds for something that virtually everyone does.
Such a law is compelling evidence of a government that no longer serves the public interest, but is instead looking to pad government coffers and advantage trial lawyers. The government should be serving and protecting law-abiding citizens — not finding new and corrupt ways to convict soccer moms of absurd so-called criminal offenses.
We are writing to express our dismay that Governor McAuliffe has done virtually nothing to reform or fix this abusive law despite it having been raised during legislative sessions for the last several years.
Likewise, we are equally amazed that the Virginia legislature has failed to fix this situation and has consistently voted down even weak attempts to fix this law. There is no excuse for this.
We call upon Governor McAuliffe and each and every Delegate and Senator to make it a top priority in the upcoming legislative session to fix this law and treat speeding as a traffic violation, not a crime.
Criminal reckless driving should not be the way we deal with simple speeding on a wide-open freeway. Reckless driving should involve some willful, wanton and clearly reckless behavior — not merely exceeding the speed limit. Courts have recognized that excessive speed alone is not a sufficient element of reckless driving. (People v. Grogan, 260 NY 138, 144, 183 NE 273, 275) Reckless driving should be determined by the facts and circumstances of the situation. For example, excessive speed in a school zone, or dangerously weaving in and out of traffic on a freeway at an excessive speed, or tailgating at an excessive speed could be reckless driving. But simply driving too fast on a wide-open freeway shouldn’t be treated as a crime. It should be a traffic violation with appropriate non-criminal fines.
We call upon the Governor and legislators to quickly fix this law in accordance with these principles. For years, Virginia has had the chance to fix this bad law, but instead they have left soccer moms to be unjustly labeled criminals. This is a disgrace and must be fixed immediately.
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