New driving laws went into effect July 1, 2011. Here is a summary of the new regulations from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Fees

  • Those who need to renew their Virginia driver’s license and identification card can save money and time by doing this online, over the phone or through the mail, if eligible. A $5 fee will now be added if the customer can renew through another DMV service option. This law emphasizes time savings for customers and shorter lines for improved efficiency at DMV offices.
  • Virginia drivers with more than one suspension, revocation, and/or disqualification order will now pay a $5 fee for each additional order as well as a reinstatement fee. The additional $5 fee is used to help offset the DMV’s administrative costs associated with processing the compliance of multiple orders on an individual’s record. These orders will be received after the court or DMV has taken away his driving privilege.

Safety

  • Teens who drink alcohol and drive will now face harsher penalties including loss of their driver’s license for a year and either a $500 minimum fine or 50 hours of community service. The previous punishment was loss of license for six months and a fine of no more than $500.
  • Motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles may now treat a red light as a stop sign if their bike fails to trigger the traffic light and they are stopped for two complete cycles of the traffic light or for two minutes, whichever is shorter, and they yield the right of way to any approaching vehicle from either direction.
  • Violators of school bus traffic laws may be recorded by video cameras mounted inside school buses since a new law allows the devices. The cameras may record license plates, and the date and time of any violations. Fines for these violations are payable to the local school division.
  • Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or police cruisers, must flash their emergency lights or sound a siren before proceeding through a red traffic signal or stop sign. Otherwise, the driver of an emergency vehicle must come to a complete stop before proceeding through a red light.

License Plates

  • The 2011 General Assembly authorized six new special plates: Don’t Tread on Me, In God We Trust, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, James River Park System, American War of 1812 and Centennial of Fort Belvoir. Fees for special plates normally range from $10 to $25, and can be a one- time or annual fee. The special plate fees are paid in addition to the regular vehicle registration fees, if applicable.
  • The registration (decal) fee is waived for the first set of Purple Heart special plates for eligible customers. These vehicles are already exempt from special license plate fees. Eligible customers who purchase a second or subsequent set of Purple Heart special plates must pay the required registration fees. A one-year extension on the HOV-lane exemption through June 30, 2012 was approved, so vehicles registered with clean special fuel license plates may continue to use certain High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes regardless of the number of passengers.
  • Vehicles bearing this plate are not exempt from the occupancy requirements for the I-95/395 corridor and I-66 HOV lanes. However, qualifying vehicles with the new clean special fuel plates are exempt from occupancy requirements in all other HOV lanes throughout the state, including the Dulles Toll Road, until the general exemption expires on July 1, 2012.
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