Virginia Driver's Guide

June 11, 2014

Navigating Virginia roadways has enough pitfalls; getting an staying licensed and choosing car insurance shouldn’t be one of them.  Below is a primer for Virginia drivers on relevant requirements and laws.

Virginia Licensing Requirements

In Virginia, there are several types of licenses available, depending on what type of vehicle you will be driving.  In addition to a standard driver’s license, Virginia residents can obtain commercial, hazardous materials, motorcycle, and graduated licenses for beginner drivers.  Visit Virginia’s DMV Website for more information.

Keeping your Virginia license

Virginia, like every state, has its own laws and regulations in place that govern drivers.  Be sure to know the laws of any state in which you will be driving; a selection of Virginia’s laws are below.

Virginia seat belt laws

Failure to wear a seatbelt is a secondary offense in Virginia.  This means that an officer can pull you over for a moving violation, and you can get another ticket if you’re not buckled up.  A passenger in the front seat who is over 18 may also receive a ticket if they’re not wearing their seatbelt, and every unrestrained individual under 18 may be ticketed.

Virginia distracted driving laws

In Virginia, it is illegal to read or type into a mobile device for a text message, email, or social media post, if the car is moving.  It is also illegal to use any handheld device if you are under 18 or driving a bus.

However, it is not illegal if you use your phone while the car is lawfully stopped or parked; if you’re making an emergency call, or if you’re programming your GPS or making a phone call…even if the car is moving.  Violation of the law carries a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine for second and subsequent offenses.

Virginia Negligence standards

Contributory negligence is the strictest negligence standard, and is only good law in five jurisdictions – Virginia is one.  In essence, a defendant being sued in any of those jurisdictions can claim that the plaintiff was in any way responsible for the accident.  If the defendant can prove that there was any negligence on the part of the plaintiff, the plaintiff is barred from recovering anything.

For example, if you get into an accident while you are speeding, you may be totally barred from recovering anything.  Speeding is a violation of state law, and therefore your negligence contributed to the accident.  Part of the reasoning behind this archaic law is that if you hadn’t been speeding in violation of state statute, you wouldn’t have been in that intersection when the defendant ran the red light.  It is an uncommon and slightly ridiculous standard, but it still exists, so be careful if you’re in Virginia.

Virginia Driver Safety Facts

In 2012, the Virginia Department of Transportation released a report of crash date from all reported accidents across the state.  The report, available as a PDF, offers some interesting and potentially useful information, and highlights the importance of having up-to-date and comprehensive car insurance. Some interesting facts included in this data:

  • The number of people killed or injured in alcohol-related accidents rose slightly in 2012 over previous years.
  • Fairfax County had the highest number of automobile accidents (14,500) in 2012.
  • On the other end, Highland County had the fewest accidents – only 32.
  • The City of Richmond only had 114 accidents reported in 2012.

Virginia Driver Resources

Virginia Insurance Buyer’s Guide, provided by the State Corporation Commission.  (PDF file.)

Virginia SCC’s Car Insurance offers resources to verity agents’ licenses, file complaints, and view insurance company filings.

Virginia’s DMV’s website provides further information and allows some transactions to be done online.

Better Business Bureau websites for Richmond, Norfolk, Charlottesville and western Virginia allow consumers to file a report if they’re having trouble with their insurance company.

I-95 Traffic Radio Guide

The I-95 corridor, which runs from Florida to Maine, is notorious for heavy traffic, especially in Northern Virginia.  Looking to keep ahead of the curve (and the traffic?) Check out our I-95 Traffic Radio Guide.

Virginia Car Facts

From racing to manufacturing and more, Virginia’s history in the automotive industry is rich and varied.

  • Advance AutoParts, the automotive supply chain, got its start in Roanoke and Lynchburg.
  • Rolls-Royce has two major facilities in Virginia.  One is located in Reston, and acts as a corporate headquarters for the company’s Airlines, Corporate, and Regional Aircraft business.  The second is the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe facility in Prince George County, which is dedicated to a wide range of aerospace research, manufacturing, and testing.
  • Richmond is home to Richmond International Raceway, which hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup series as well as the NASCAR Nationwide series.  On a clear summer day, you can hear the racecars from anywhere in the city.
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