Loudoun Co. advances new traffic offense, despite state opposition

Loudoun County, Virginia’s board of supervisors is moving forward on creating a new traffic offense, to provide options to the state’s all-or-nothing reckless driving charge.

Supervisor Ralph Buona, of Ashburn, says under current law, sheriff’s deputies who witness a fender bender can either cite the driver with reckless driving — which carries the potential of jail time, six points on a license, and a $2,500 fine — or nothing at all.

“There is nothing in-between,” Buona told WTOP. “So, what happens is a person charged with reckless has to hire an attorney, go to court, and hope the judge can reduce it to something less than reckless.”

Buona and Sheriff Mike Chapman want the deputies to have some discretion in issuing citations, however three attempts to get the state to create a new moderate law have failed.

The Loudoun lawmaker says almost a dozen Northern Virginia jurisdictions have local ordinances, which allow law enforcement officers to charge something less than reckless driving.

“Unfortunately, it’s not clear the localities have the authority to do these ordinances,” Buona said. “There’s kind of a draft attorney general opinion saying that may not be the case.”

Still, Buona and the other supervisors have decided to move forward with the ordinance, regardless of the state’s tentative misgivings.

“If the Commonwealth comes back and says we can’t do the ordinance, they’re going to have to tell 11 other localities they can’t have theirs either,” he said.

The specifics of the ordinances would still be worked out before the county takes final action, says Buona: “The penalties would be a maximum of a $250 fine, and they’d be things like ‘failure to control your vehicle,’ or ‘failure to pay proper attention.'”

After the board’s initial approval, the next step is to hold a public hearing.

“The board sees the problem, and we’re going to give our law enforcement another tool,” said Buona. “And, we’re trying to do right for our citizens.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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