Motorist group criticizes Virginia???s ???reckless??? speeding law

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RICHMOND, Va. ??? In a hurry this holiday? Beware that Virginia ranks as one of the toughest states on speeders, and police are proud of it.

Driving 20 mph over the speed limit classifies as reckless driving in Virginia law. That offense is not a mere traffic citation, but a Class One criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.

???It???s the highest level misdemeanor, right below a felony,??? said Michael Frank, who rated states as best and worst for speeders.

Virginia came in at fourth toughest, with New Jersey finishing No. 1. With its wide-open highways, North Dakota was ranked most lenient.

Unlike North Dakota, which imposes a modest $5 fine for each mile per hour over the 65-mph speed limit, Virginia pulls out all the stops to crack down on speeders.

???Congestion, coupled with speed traps, red-light cameras and aggressive traffic enforcement make Virginia a very difficult place to drive,??? said John Bowman, spokesman for the National Motorists Association.

???When the commonwealth raised its interstate speed limits a few years back, it failed to adjust the reckless driving threshold accordingly. So now, anyone caught going 11 mph over the posted speed on the interstate is subject to a reckless driving charge,??? Bowman told

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said VSP ???does take an aggressive stance on traffic violators because safe driving saves lives.???

Notorious for running radar traps along the I-95 corridor, Virginia is among the 10 states with the lowest highway death rate per 100 million miles traveled.

???If such a reputation gets drivers to comply with speed limits, buckle up, and not drive distracted, impaired or aggressively on Virginia???s highways, then it???s a reputation we can live with,??? Geller said.

Geller also pointed out that all funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police ???go directly to court fees and the state???s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.???

Patrick George wasn???t feeling particularly philanthropic when police nailed him for doing 93 mph in a 55-mph zone in Rappahannock County.

After he was nabbed in his Camaro ZL1, George said, ???The best plea deal I got was a fine of about $400 with court costs, a 10-day suspension of my license in Virginia and three days in jail. The judge has an option of giving one day in jail for every mile an hour over 90 mph, and he would exercise it.???

Though Virginia is the 12th largest state in population, it ranks seventh for most tickets issued per year. And while the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads region are chronically congested, the state has wide-open spaces, too. Fun fact: Southwest Virginia extends west of Detroit.

???Speed limits are set absurdly low, 45 mph on some highways,??? said Frank. ???Radar detectors are illegal, and cops have devices to detect them.???

Bowman said his group???s research shows that Virginia has far more traffic attorneys per capita ??? about 18 per 100,000 residents.

???That???s nearly twice as high as the next state, which is Maryland,??? Bowman said. ???This indicates an extraordinarily high level of traffic enforcement, otherwise there wouldn???t be enough demand to keep all of those lawyers in business.???