Written by Gregory Monte.
Micromanaging Driver Behavior in Virginia?
Today I happened to be glancing through the Virginia Motor Vehicle statues. I came across two “interesting” laws which illustrate perfectly a government’s attempt to micromanage driver behavior. I am sure everyone already knows that Virginia is the only state that doesn’t allow radar detectors (§ 46.2-1079. Radar detectors; demerit points not to be awarded), but the statutes I discovered are much more obscure.
I can kind of see why a legislature might want to outlaw radar detectors, but the two other laws that I highlight in this post are just downright silly. Even if you don’t live in this state, you will probably appreciate my points – you may even get a chuckle out of them. I actually think that I may have violated both of them in my drive back from Florida with my family several years ago.
Dumb – No Coasting Allowed
“The driver of any motor vehicle traveling on a downgrade on any highway shall not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral.”
Most drivers probably have nothing to worry about as far as this particular statute is concerned because they put the car in drive and … just drive.
But if you own a car with manual transmission, it is quite possible that you use the neutral gear on occasion. My previous car was a 2012 Honda Civic 5-speed. I not only used neutral when stopped in traffic or at a red light (so I didn’t have to depress the clutch), I also used it to coast downhill. I just didn’t see the need to keep the gears engaged on a hill because it actually slowed the car down. So I would disengage and coast.
That would make me a criminal in Virginia, I guess.
I could probably look up the reasoning behind this silly law, but am not going to waste the time and effort. I can only say from personal experience that there is no possible reason for it – at least not that I can fathom. I will leave it at that.
Dumber – No Driving 13+ Hours Allowed
“No person shall drive any motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth for more than thirteen hours in any period of twenty-four hours or for a period which, when added to the time such person may have driven in any other state, would make an aggregate of more than thirteen hours in any twenty-four-hour period.”
Obviously you don’t want drivers falling asleep at the wheel, but read this law closely and you will see how silly it could potentially be.
For example, let’s say I have to drive back from Tampa, Florida to my house in Pennsylvania. Because it is such a long trip, I decide I don’t want to drive nonstop. Let’s assume that I also want to get some sightseeing in along the way, so I decide to check out Virginia (well known for its Revolutionary/Civil War past).
I leave Tampa at 10:00 AM and travel north, arriving in Roanoke, VA somewhere around 10:00 PM. After checking in to a local hotel, I sleep until 6:00 AM the next morning and am out on the road by 7:00. It’s a beautiful day and I sure am looking forward to those sites in Richmond …
But guess what?
YOU BETTER ARREST ME BEFORE I GET THERE BECAUSE BY 8:01 I AM OVER THE 13 HOUR VIRGINIA DRIVING LIMIT.
Unless I am reading this law incorrectly, I have earned myself a ticket for my “excessive” driving behavior.
Did I use the word “silly” to describe these two laws? How about fucking stupid.
Final Note – California Statute on Driving Time
California has a similar law to Virginia’s about allowable driving time, however, it only seems to apply to commercial drivers. Section 21702 of the CA Vehicle code reads, in part:
“… no driver shall drive for more than 10 hours in any 24-hour period unless eight consecutive hours off duty have elapsed.”