WASHINGTON - Even minor wrecks can prompt serious tickets in Virginia where state code dictates what tickets can be issued in distracted driving collisions. However, Stafford County's Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to give ticket writers more flexibility.
Deputies in Stafford County, who previously had only the option of not writing a ticket or issuing a reckless driving citation, now can ticket drivers with improper driving.
Stafford County Commonwealth Attorney Eric Olsen testified for the change at a Stafford County Board of Supervisors' public hearing on the distracted driving matter.
"If a person is driving down the road and eating a sandwich and gets into a fender bender or is playing with the radio and runs off the road and hits a telephone pole or any of the other things that can happen causing an accident because of distracted driving, most people are surprised that when law enforcement arrives on the scene their only choice is to either not to write a citation for that person or to charge them with reckless driving," Stafford County Commonwealth Attorney Eric Olsen told the supervisors.
"The circumstances that I just described for the most part are not really reckless driving."
Olsen says often a driver's actions don't rise to the level of reckless driving. Reckless driving is a charge that would involve jeopardizing someone's life or causing serious damage to property.
Reckless driving is a Class One misdemeanor that can result in drivers being sent to jail for a year and or being fined $2,500.
The improper driving charge is far less serious than reckless driving.
An improper driving charge is a Class Three misdemeanor that can carry a fine between $1 and $500. That citation currently is issued for offenses, such as having too much window tinting on a vehicle or smoking a cigarette near a gas pump.
Olsen says judges often reduce reckless driving to improper driving when tickets are challenged in court.
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