Va. Senate approves bill raising reckless driving threshold to 85 miles per hour

Interstate 64 outside of Waynesboro. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Senate approved a bill Monday that would raise the state’s reckless driving threshold from 80 miles per hour to 85 miles per hour, a change pitched as a way to bring speeding punishments more in line with driver behavior.

State law currently defines speed-related reckless driving — punishable as a criminal offense rather than a traffic infraction — as going 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or exceeding 80 miles per hour anywhere.

The bill the Senate approved 25-14 would give drivers a little more leeway, particularly on highways where the speed limit is 70 miles per hour.

“I’ve not met anyone that actually thinks that driving 11 miles over the speed limit ought to be punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine,” said Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Salem, the bill’s patron.

Under state law, reckless driving is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, spoke against the bill on the Senate floor, suggesting its passage could lead to even higher speeds if the state ever approved speed limits of 75 miles per hour.

“We could keep going with this thing,” said Marsden, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Where does it end?”

The legislation has passed the Senate several years in a row, but has failed to advance in the House of Delegates. A similar bill is pending in the House.