Several new laws went into effect across the Commonwealth of Virginia on July 1st. One of those laws was HB2201 which set the fine for failing to drive on the right side of the highway at $100.00. The bill changes the language of Virginia Code Sections 46.2-802 & 46.2-804. For the purposes of this article, I will only be focusing on Virginia Code Section 46.2-802.
Prior to the passing of this bill, Virginia Code Section 46.2-802 read:
Except as otherwise provided by law, on all highways of sufficient width, the driver of a vehicle shall drive on the right half of the highway, unless it is impracticable to travel on such side of the highway and except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, subject to the provisions applicable to overtaking and passing set forth in Article 4 (§ 46.2-837 et seq.) of this chapter.
After this bill was passed one sentence was added to the end:
A violation of this section is punishable by a fine of $100.
That same sentence was added to the end of Virginia Code Section 46.2-804. Prior to the passing of HB2201, the fine was up to $250.00, but didn't require a fine of any particular amount.
There are a few things I want to focus on about this Code Section that I find interesting:
First, there is a lack of any reference to speed or speeding. This law has been reported as punishing slow drivers in the left lane, and surely a driver going below the speed limit will draw more attention than a driver going with the flow of traffic, but as the language reads this is applicable to any drivers who aren't driving on the right half of the highway regardless of whether they are traveling above or below the speed limit.
Second, this law doesn't mention left lane, it states that a driver "shall drive on the right half of the highway." Several interstates in Hampton Roads and across Virginia have three lanes. If a driver is in the middle lane are they able to stay there or does this law require them to move over into the right lane? Could a driver receive a fine from this Code Section for driving in the middle lane instead of on the right half of the highway? It seems a little silly to think that would be possible, but not completely inconceivable based on the language of the Code Section.
Thirdly, this law has been in effect since 1989 and was punishable by a fine of up to $250.00. The only thing that has changed is the fine that is now set at $100.00. If drivers weren't getting pulled over for driving in the left lane before, I wouldn't expect to see a meaningful increase in traffic stops any time soon.
If you have run into this unfortunate situation or any other traffic offenses here in Virginia, please call my office today at (757) 898-4805 and I would be happy to help.