Answers to commonly asked Virginia safety law questions

Pam Dudding Contributing writer

With the changing of times also comes the changing of basic laws. People generally would rather know them in advance before they see a blue light in their rearview mirror.

Change is inevitable. As we have merged from walking and horse and buggy to vehicles and airplanes, laws change with the people’s needs.

Many have fond memories of the days when, as a child, one got to roam around in the car, lay-up in the back window or stand up in the front seat while mom or dad drove. Those days are long gone. Seatbelt laws for kids and adults came and now change often.

Here are a few reminders:

·Lap Belts: To avoid being issued a ticket, state laws require people to cooperate with Code 46.2-1094 which mandates that occupants of front seats of motor vehicles are required to use safety lap belts and shoulder harnesses at all times while the motor vehicle is in motion on any public highway. Passenger under the age of 18 years, however, shall be protected under additional laws. (There are specific exemptions for mail carriers, utility meter readers, law enforcement personnel and others, including any person’s physical condition or other medical reason, etc.)

  • Child restraint devices are required when transporting children on Virginia highways, which started in 1968, as stated in Code 46.2-1095.

·Children up to age eight must be properly secured in a child restraint device of a type which meets the standards adopted by the United States DOT. The child restraint device shall not be forward-facing until at least the child reaches two years of age or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device.

·All child restraint devices are to be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if the vehicle is either not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger-side airbag has been deactivated.

Note: There are some exemptions for those operating taxicabs, school buses, executive sedans, or limousines, all emergency vehicles or law-enforcement agency vehicle while in the performance of official duties.

Living in the country, many people still enjoy old-fashioned summer tubing or kayaking, transporting their toys and people in the bed of a pickup. Many have memories of great times when this law was not an issue.

·Today, Code 46.2-1156.1 states that the transportation of persons less than 16 in pickup truck beds is prohibited on Virginia highways except for an organized parade or, on or across a highway from one field or parcel of land to another field or parcel of land in connection with farming operations.

·Headlights help others see one’s vehicles as well as assist the driver as stated in Code 46.2-1030. While vehicles are being driven, headlights should be displayed:

  • From sunset to sunrise
  • During any other time when, because of rain, smoke, fog, snow, sleet, insufficient light, or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions, visibility is reduced to a degree whereby persons or vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet
  • Whenever windshield wipers are in use as a result of fog, rain, sleet, or snow. (Excluding instances when windshield wipers are used intermittently in misting rain, sleet, or snow.)
  • With no more than four lights used to provide general illumination ahead of the vehicle, including at least two headlights and any other combination of fog lights or other auxiliary lights (approved by the Superintendent). However, motorcycles may be equipped with and use no more than five approved lights in order to provide general illumination ahead of the motorcycle.

And, yes, in today’s world the cell phone has almost become a body part.

·However, Code 46.2-1078.1 states that it is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle and use a handheld personal communications device – few exemptions apply. One may not;

  • Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person
  • Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information
  • Drive a moving motor vehicle in a highway work zone and hold in one’s hand a handheld personal communications device

Laws are made to obey and the more each person does their part to attend to the regulations, the safer everyone will be. Let’s be safe in Craig and watch out for one another, as every life is valuable!

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