Is Driving While Drowsy a Punishable Offense in Virginia?

Sep 8, 2021 | Auto Accidents

Virginia does not have a law against drowsy driving. However, that doesn’t mean drivers can get away with doing it and that they face no penalties if they cause an accident.

Several states have instituted laws against drowsy driving to discourage the practice because it’s a growing problem, right alongside distracted driving.

But just because Virginia does not have a law specific to distracted driving like other states, individuals who are negligent in their driving behaviors aren’t immune from penalties. 

We’ll explain how drowsy driving can impact a personal injury lawsuit and what charges a driver could face if driving while tired.

What Is Drowsy Driving?

A “drowsy driver” is exactly what it sounds like, a person who is too tired to stay alert enough to responsibly drive. This behavior is dangerous to other motorists because lower awareness means slower reaction times.

When reaction times are slower, it makes it more challenging to avoid accidents. The driver’s extreme tiredness impacts their thinking abilities.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles states that drowsy driving can be as deadly as drunk, drugged, or distracted driving.

Negligence in Virginia Car Accidents

In personal injury cases, the courts evaluate the actions of all drivers involved to look for negligence. Negligence has four elements including:

  1. The person involved had a duty of care toward others. When you get behind the wheel of a car, you always have that duty of care.
  2. The at-fault driver breached that duty of care by failing to look out for others. Choosing to drive when you know you aren’t at your best is certainly a breach of that duty of care.
  3. A victim sustained injuries due to that driver’s actions. Driving drowsy is not a violation in and of itself in Virginia. So for the at-fault driver to face penalties, they must harm another person with their actions.
  4. The at-fault driver’s negligence directly caused the victims injuries. Just because there was a drowsy driver near the victim does not mean that their negligence caused the victim’s injuries. There must be a direct causal relationship between the injuries the victim sustains and the other driver’s poor decisions.

Virginia is a contributory negligence state, which means that if you were at fault for even a small part of the accident, you won’t be able to seek compensation for your injuries.

That’s why having a good car accident lawyer is so important. The other driver’s attorney will work to prove that you could have avoided that accident, which means you were partially at fault for it. Your attorney will work to help you prove that you were a victim of the incident.

Reckless Driving Charges for Drowsy Drivers

Although Virginia does not have laws against drowsy driving, a driver who drives despite extreme tiredness could face reckless driving charges.

Reckless driving charges can carry serious jail sentences and fines. Because drowsiness can impair a driver’s senses, they might face reckless driving charges. Reckless driving encompasses a wide spectrum of offenses, including:

  • Speeds exceeding 85 MPH or 20 MPH above the posted speed limit
  • Racing
  • Passing a school bus
  • Passing on a hillcrest
  • Passing two vehicles abreast
  • Driving with an obstructed view
  • Passing or overtaking an emergency vehicle

If you’ve been involved in an accident and sustained injuries where the other driver was charged with reckless driving, it might be easier to prove that the other driver was negligent.

Call for a Free Consultation

Victims of car accidents should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. One wrong statement could lead to the courts viewing you as partially at fault for the accident, which would mean you have to pay the full price of your medical care for your injuries. Schedule a free consultation with our office now for legal insights before proceeding with your car accident claim.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


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