Why did I get a reckless driving ticket for a single-vehicle accident?

A lot of people get into a single–vehicle accident where their vehicle is the only one affected and they end up walking away with a reckless driving ticket. Why does that happen?

Honestly, part of the reason is because of Virginia law. When an officer comes upon an accident and there is any kind of damage even if it’s just to the driver’s vehicle, the officer in a lot of cases is almost duty–bound by their department to write some kind of charge against the driver. And under Virginia law there is simply not many possibilities that fit a single–vehicle accident situation.

Reckless driving is one of the main charges that does sometimes fit and has a chance of standing up in court. What reckless driving (failure to maintain control) means is basically that you can be guilty if you simply fail to maintain proper control of your vehicle. Now there are lots of defenses to that charge, such as proving that you did maintain proper control of the vehicle. The law says that not every accident is a crime and especially not reckless driving. But the problem can be that some judges split the baby when they’re facing a reckless driving single–vehicle accident. Sometimes the judge may say, “well this is a minor case so we’ll call it improper driving,” where under the facts some other judges might say, “well this case should be dismissed completely and it simply is an accident.”

But the problem is that again the officer doesn’t really have a choice. The law lets the judge or the prosecuting attorney reduce the case to improper driving where the culpability is minimal. But when it’s a single–vehicle accident and really no other charge fits, the trooper pretty much has to write a reckless driving ticket. That’s why you may be in a single–vehicle accident thinking, “oh it’s just going to mess up my insurance,” and you might end the day with a reckless driving ticket.

If that happens there are lots of possibilities in court to defend the charge, but it’s sort of an unfortunate fact about the way Virginia laws work and the way some departments have policies about writing tickets even in a single–vehicle accident situations.

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