Now that you’ve gotten your car insurance sorted out, it’s time to drive. But wait: To avoid tickets and license suspensions, first brush up on Virginia’s rules of the road.
Virginia has an at-fault insurance system, meaning that in a car accident, the party at fault is financially responsible for the other party’s property damage and bodily injury. And since the state has contributory negligence law, if a plaintiff acted negligently in any way, they can’t receive compensation, regardless of whether the defendant was more at fault.
Drivers Without Insurance
Despite the lack of car insurance requirements, only 11 percent of drivers in Virginia don’t have insurance, which is actually 19 percent lower than the national average, according to estimates from the Insurance Research Council.
While the state doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage (just the fee), if you have it, it will include hit and runs, and you can stack coverage. Stacking means you can multiply your uninsured motorist limit by the number of cars you insure.
DUIs Laws in Virginia
||Time since last offense
||Minimum jail time
||Class 1 misdemeanor
||BAC 0.15%-0.2%: 5 days
BAC over 0.2%: 10 days
||Class 1 misdemeanor
||20 days to 1 year
||Class 1 misdemeanor
BAC 0.15%-0.2%: 10 days added
BAC over 0.2%: 20 days added
||Class 6 felony
||Class 6 felony
||Class 6 felony
Seat Belt Laws in Virginia
||Who’s required to wear seat belts?
||Enforcement for those over age 18
||Enforcement for those under age 18
||Under age 18 only
Primary enforcement means police can ticket a person for a violation on its own, while secondary enforcement means the violation must be accompanied by a violation that’s under primary enforcement. In other words, if you are over 18 and not wearing a seat belt in the back seat, the police can ticket you only if you’re also committing another traffic violation.
Virginia has a ban on operating handheld devices for all drivers. If you’re caught using a phone while driving, you’ll incur a fine and points on your driving record.
- First offense: Three points, $125 fine
- Second offense: Three points, $250 fine
Teen drivers are more prone to crashes than any other age group due to their lack of experience behind the wheel. That’s why Virginia, like most states, has a graduated driver’s license system for young drivers. If you have a learner’s permit, you’ll face the following driving restrictions.
||12-4 a.m. if under 18
Parent/guardian in front passenger seat Driving to and from work, school, emergency, or religious activity
||Licensed driver 21 or older (can be 18 if they are a legal guardian or immediate family member) in front passenger seat
Exceptions for drivers ages 16.25-18 who have had a permit for 9 months and whose parent signed a Virginia driver training
||Only 1 passenger under 18 (excluding family members) for drivers who are also under 18
Statute of Limitations
Wait no more than five years following a car accident to file property damage claims and no more than two years to file personal injury claims. If you wait beyond Virginia’s statutes of limitations, your claim won’t be covered.
Notification Laws: Cancellations and Non-Renewals
After the first 60 days, car insurance companies can cancel your insurance midterm if your license has been suspended or revoked, you committed fraud or misrepresentation, or you haven’t paid your premiums. In the case of nonpayment, the company has 15 days to notify you before your policy’s expiration date so you can find new coverage. In all other cases, the notification window is 45 days.
Companies can also choose not to renew your policy at the end of its term, but they must give you 45 days’ notice. Learn more about cancellations and non-renewals.
Although Virginia is one of two states that doesn’t require auto insurance (the other is New Hampshire), those with more than 21 vehicles can opt to self-insure. However, they’ll need to have $95,000 worth of collateral and proof that they have net working capital equal to the minimum liability limits. Follow these steps to self-insure if you meet the requirements:
- Fill out the form — https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/fr302.pdf.
- Gather the necessary documents.
- Current list of the cars you own
- Latest consolidated financial report, including profit and loss statement, certified by a reputable accounting firm
- Financial statement from the end of the fiscal year
- Crash involvement report (FR-521) — https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/fr521.pdf
- Send the form and documents to this address:
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269
In Virginia, you’ll need to get your car inspected for safety once a year. Here’s how to do it:
- Find an inspection station. While the state doesn’t maintain a list of all 4,200 inspection stations, you can try auto dealerships and car repair facilities (look for a white-and-blue sign that says the location is an official inspection station). If you can’t find a station, contact a Safety Division Area Office via https://vsp.virginia.gov/find-a-safety-office/.
- Bring your payment. Here are the fees for a car inspection:
Truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more Motor vehicle used to transport passengers with a seating capacity of more than 16 passengers (including driver)
All other vehicles
Out-of-state vehicles must also undergo emissions testing in these counties:
- Prince William
Emissions testing is required in these cities as well:
- Falls Church
- Manassas Park
Emissions inspections are also required every two years for vehicles matching these criteria:
||Maximum manufacturer’s designated gross vehicle weight rating (in pounds)
||Less than 25 model years before Jan. 1 of current calendar year
||1997 or newer
This testing is not required for the following vehicles:
- Fire and rescue equipment
- Qualified hybrid vehicles (achieving at least 50 city mpg, or at least 48 for model years 2008 and 2009)
- Registered antique vehicles
- Registered military surplus motor vehicles
- Tactical military vehicles
- Vehicles powered by clean fuels exclusively, including these types:
- Compressed natural gas
- Liquefied natural gas
- Liquefied petroleum gas
Follow these steps to get your vehicle emissions test:
- Go to an emissions testing location. You can find an inspection location near you at https://www.virginiavip.org/PublicSite/Pages/InspectionStations.aspx.4
- Pay the fee. The emissions testing fee is $28.
Defensive Driving Programs
There are a couple of reasons why a Virginian would take a defensive driving course: The court may have ordered them to, or, if they’re at least 55, they might want an auto insurance discount. Either way, here’s how to take a defensive driving course and take five points off your license every two years:
- Find a course at https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers/#clinics.asp.
- Pay for the class, which can cost up to $100.
- Take the course, which will be eight hours long in total.
Thresholds for Suing
Virginia’s state driving laws don’t indicate any monetary or serious injury threshold for suing following a car accident. If someone doesn’t agree with a payout following an accident, they’re free to seek economic damages for these claims:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
When to Report an Accident
Virginia requires people to immediately report an accident that results in injury or death, or face a fine of up to $250.
Credit Scores and Gender
Some states ban insurance companies from determining prices on the basis of credit scores and gender, protecting people with bad credit and men from higher rates. However, Virginia isn’t one of those states, so people with good credit and women will pay less.
Let’s say you have a car that is worth $30,000 and you get into a bad car accident, causing $24,000 in damages. In that case, because the repairs will cost 80 percent of your car’s AMV, your car would be declared a total loss, and you’d be reimbursed $30,000, provided you had collision coverage.
In Virginia, the total loss threshold is 75 percent, so any car with damages that cost 75 percent or more of its AMV would be declared a total loss.