Supervisors Move Ahead with New Traffic Offense, Despite State

Loudoun County supervisors and Sheriff Michael Chapman have long sought a lesser option under state law than charging motorists with reckless driving in minor crashes. After inaction by the General Assembly, county supervisors are moving ahead with a new local law on their own.

“Right now, our deputies are handcuffed in the sense that they could see a small rear end traffic collision, and they have a choice: either cite the driver with reckless driving, or don’t cite them with anything,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) in September, forecasting his proposal. He led the push to create a new local ordinance.

Convicting a driver of reckless driving can come with six points on his or her license, up to a $2,500 fine and even up to a year in jail. There is a lesser charge, improper driving, but that is only available if a judge reduces a reckless driving charge in court.

Support for a new state law has so far yielded no results, and a state Attorney General opinion from 1979 holds that localities do not have the power to enact those lesser infractions. Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman has also opposed the concept of a local ordinance in the past.

“There are eleven other localities that have these ordinances, and the General Assembly has turned their head and not done a darn thing about those eleven localities having them,” Buona said. “So my view is, well, let’s just be the twelfth locality to have the darn things.”

According to Buona’s office, those include mostly other Northern Virginia jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax; Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford Counties; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Fredericksburg; and the towns of Herndon and Vienna.

On Oct. 17, supervisors unanimously approved Buona’s proposal to start the process to adopt two new traffic laws in Loudoun. One is called “operator to give full time and attention to driving” and the other “vehicle to be kept under control.” They would be enforced as traffic infractions with a fine up to $250.

“My view is, if Richmond’s not going to fix the problem for us, we’ll take matters into our own hands, and if they want to  stop us, they’ll have to tell eleven other jurisdictions that they can’t do what they’ve been doing for the past 50 years,” Buona said.

The next step will be to advertise and hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinances.

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