Final action this week on Va. tolls, bike safety, more

WASHINGTON — Several bills impacting drivers, bicyclists and kids on school buses are on track to be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the final week of Virginia’s General Assembly session.

The General Assembly must adjourn by March 12, but several lawmakers hope the budget bills and other business can be completed a day or two early.

Tolls

A bill that would set rules for the fees that can be charged for toll violations and how they can be collected among other things is now before the Senate Finance Committee after passing the House of Delegates 85-12.

The bill would also allow Virginia to enter into deals with Maryland and other states that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to withhold services from drivers who have unpaid tolls out of state. Out-of-state drivers — thousands from Maryland — owe millions of dollars in outstanding tolls in Virginia.

The bill would also allow the state to collect email addresses and cellphone numbers so that drivers can be notified of any possible violations tied to their E-ZPass accounts.

Bikes

After several years of attempts, it appears a bill that aims to protect people riding bikes from slamming into a suddenly opened car door will pass this year.

Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen’s bill would provide for a fine of up to $50 for a driver who opens a car door into traffic when it is not reasonably safe to do so.

“The bill would benefit the person hit by the door, and help remind drivers to look before they swing open the doors,” Petersen says in a message to constituents.

There is an exception for law enforcement or other first-responders who are on the job.

The Senate approved the bill on a 24-16 vote, and the House could vote this week. The House Courts of Justice Committee reported the bill to the House floor on a 14-8 vote.

A different kind of bike could see changes, too, with a bill approving certain auxiliary lights for motorcycles just requiring the House and Senate to agree on the details of their slightly different proposals.

School bus cameras

The General Assembly has agreed to fix a legal issue that temporarily halted all school bus stop-arm camera violation tickets in Virginia.

The change would specifically state that the tickets can be sent through the mail.

Attorney General Mark Herring ruled this fall that the failure to clearly state that in the law authorizing the cameras to catch violators putting kids at risk meant any tickets had to be delivered in person by a law enforcement officer.

“Enforcement of this law is a really important part of keeping our kids safe as they get on and off the bus,” Herring said in a statement.

“The old law created some pretty obvious enforcement problems for localities, but these bills should fix them and help improve safety for students around their bus stop.”

Over 80 mph can still mean jail time

Bills that would have allowed drivers caught going 11 mph over a 70 mph speed limit to escape with just a ticket, rather than a reckless driving charge, appear to have died for the year.

The bills would have raised the threshold for an automatic reckless driving charge, which can carry up to a year in jail, to 85 mph in areas where the speed limit is 70.

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