Signs to warn drivers of tough reckless driving penalties in Va.

WASHINGTON — New signs on Interstates 95 and 81 warn drivers that traveling faster than 80 mph in Virginia can carry stiff penalties, including up to a year in jail.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is installing the warning signs on I-95 in the 70 mph zone through Spotsylvania, Caroline and Hanover counties between D.C. and Richmond, and on I-81 as far north as Shenandoah County, west of Front Royal.

The signs are going up in locations that data from the Department of Motor Vehicles show have more crashes than other similar highway stretches or higher proportions of speeding drivers than other stretches.

At the locations where the signs have been installed in Spotsylvania County, 17 percent of northbound drivers and 8 percent of southbound drivers typically go over 80 mph, said VDOT senior communications specialist Jenny O’Quinn.

The northbound sign sits just north of Exit 118, for Virginia Route 606. The southbound sign is about three miles closer to Fredericksburg.

Virginia law has not changed, but many drivers, including those from out of state, might not be aware that any speeding infraction over 80 mph is automatically classified as reckless driving in Virginia. The class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“The hope is that the signs will increase awareness of the law. And then in turn, reduce speeds and hopefully reduce crashes in those areas,” O’Quinn said.

“There are also a lot of people traveling on the roads from out of state, and this will help alert them to Virginia law too,” she said.

Proposals to change the law in 70 mph zones — so that a speeding ticket would be issued for drivers caught traveling 11 mph over the limit — have not survived in the General Assembly.

Traveling 20 mph over the speed limit is also an automatic reckless driving charge in Virginia.

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