A number of bills passed by the 2020 General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam relating to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles went into effect last week. They include:
Team Tommie Special License Plate—House Bill 593 authorized the creation of a new revenue-sharing license plate honoring Tommie the pit bull. Tommie died in Richmond after suffering severe abuse. Revenue from the new license plate will benefit the Richmond Animal Care and Control Foundation, the agency that cared for Tommie. The license plate is in development now and is expected to be available to purchase in the spring of 2021.
Voluntary Disability Indicator on Vehicle Registrations—House Bill 1666 allows those with a communication impairment, such as autism, to voluntarily indicate the disability on their vehicle registrations. The indication on the registration alerts law enforcement officers of the vehicle owner’s communication impairment before approaching a stopped vehicle.
Traumatic Brain Injury Indicator on Driver’s Licenses—Senate Bill 289 allows Virginians with a traumatic brain injury to indicate the condition on a driver’s license. An applicant must request the designation and present a form completed by a licensed physician confirming the applicant’s traumatic brain injury.
Gender Designations on Driver’s Licenses—Senate Bill 246 allows anyone applying for a driver’s license or identification card to indicate one of three options when designating their sex identity: male (M), female (F) or non-binary (X). Customers with existing driver’s licenses or ID cards can also change the designation online at dmvNOW.com and request a replacement driver’s license or identification card. The fee for a replacement is $20.
Driver’s License Suspensions for Certain Non-driving Related Offenses—Senate Bill 513/House Bill 909 removes certain provisions allowing a person’s driving privilege to be suspended or revoked. Those provisions include when convicted of or placed on deferred disposition for a non-motor vehicle related drug offense, for non-payment of certain fees owed to a local correctional facility or regional jail, and for shoplifting motor fuel. The bill is not retroactive. Therefore, as of July 1, DMV will no longer issue suspensions and/or revocations for these offenses, but any suspensions and/or revocations already in effect on a person’s record will still need to be satisfied, including payment of the DMV reinstatement fee. For revocations associated with a drug conviction/deferral entered by the court prior to July 1 and still in effect, the person may petition the convicting court for restricting driving privileges.
Senate Bill 437 (Protection of Bicyclists and Other Vulnerable Road Users) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to operate a vehicle in a careless or distracted manner if serious bodily injury is caused to a vulnerable road user. A vulnerable road user includes pedestrians, bicyclists, those using a wheelchair, those on skateboards or roller skates, those riding an animal or using an animal-drawn vehicle, and those using electric scooters.
House Bill 1705 (Pedestrian Yielding Law) requires drivers yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing a highway by stopping and remaining stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. When a vehicle is yielding to the pedestrian, vehicles approaching from an adjacent lane or from behind the vehicle cannot pass the stopped vehicle.
House Bill 885/Senate Bill 63 increases the fine for those driving between 81 and 85 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone. If convicted, the fine is an additional $100.
“Virginia is an active supporter of the national Toward Zero Deaths movement,” DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said. “Making strides with laws like these will bring us closer to our goal of one day reaching zero deaths on Virginia roadways.
“Everyone can do their part by staying focused and alert while driving, always buckling up, watching out for vulnerable road users, following speed limits, and never driving after drinking alcohol,” said Holcomb, who also serves as the governor’s highway safety representative.
Also effective July 1, DMV implemented an administrative change to no longer require that a customer retake the driver’s license road skills test if their driving privilege has been revoked solely as a result of a non-motor vehicle-related drug violation. This change is consistent with the governor’s initiative to eliminate the imposition of driver licensing sanctions and requirements for offenses unrelated to the operation of a motor vehicle, a DMV press release indicated. DMV will continue to require customers whose driving privileges have been revoked for motor vehicle-related reasons to retest in order to obtain a driver’s license.