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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Underage Drinking and Driving Punishments More Stringent
Lose License for a Year, Pay $500 Fine or 50 Hours

RICHMOND - Teens who drink alcohol and drive will face harsher penalties beginning July 1 including loss of their driver's license for a year and either a $500 minimum fine or 50 hours of community service. Currently, the punishment is loss of license for six months and a fine of no more than $500.

"This new law is right in line with Virginia's 'zero tolerance' stance against underage drinking and driving," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative. Zero tolerance means the legal limit for teens is a .02 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the normal alcohol content of the average person. Even a small amount of alcohol can result in a conviction.

"Unfortunately, teens are one of the highest risk populations on our roadways," Holcomb said. "Despite meaningful efforts to curb underage drinking and driving, it still remains a significant problem." In 2010, 1,285 drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 were convicted of drunk driving in Virginia; most were 18 to 20 years old.

The Virginia General Assembly approved several other traffic-related laws that will take effect July 1, 2011.

Motorcycles and red signals
One allows motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles, in certain situations, to go through red traffic signals. They may treat a red light as a stop sign if their bike fails to trigger the traffic light and they have waited two full cycles of the light or two minutes, whichever is shorter.

School bus violations
Violators of school bus traffic laws may be recorded by video cameras mounted inside school buses since a new law will allow localities to pass ordinances permitting the devices. The cameras may record license plates, and the date and time of any violations. Fines for these violations will be payable to the local school division. One example of a school bus traffic law is the requirement for vehicles to stop when approaching school buses that are stopped to load or unload passengers, and to remain stopped until the bus moves again.

Flash emergency lights at intersections
Another new law taking effect July 1 requires emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or police cruisers, to flash their emergency lights or sound a siren before proceeding through a red traffic signal or stop sign. Or, the driver of an emergency vehicle must come to a complete stop before proceeding through a red light if required for the safety of people and property.

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