You may believe that speeding is only driving faster than the posted speed limit. However, drivers can also be cited for driving too fast for the traffic or road conditions at the time. If you are pulled over for speeding while driving on wet roads, you could be ticketed for reckless driving. How do you drive safely on wet roads? These five simple safety tips can help you avoid wet driving dangers and a reckless driving charge. If you have already been ticketed for reckless driving or are facing other charges as a result of driving in or after the rain, Driving Defense Law may be able to help. Set up a free case evaluation with one of our Virginia traffic law attorneys by calling (757) 929-0335 today.
What Is Driving Too Fast for Traffic and Road Conditions?
Code of Virginia § 46.2-861 states that drivers can be guilty of reckless driving if they exceed “a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time, regardless of any posted speed limit.” Because the language of the law is in this case broad, what is considered a reasonable or unreasonable speed is to some extent up to the discretion of the officer who pulls the driver over.
When Can You Be Charged with Reckless Driving for Driving Too Fast for Road Conditions?
A driver can be charged with reckless driving when an officer determines that the driver is driving too fast for the road or traffic conditions that currently exist. They may charge the driver with reckless driving when:
- An accident occurs as a result of driving too fast
- Traffic is slowed due to an accident, and the driver has failed to adequately adjust their speed
- The speeding incident occurs in a road construction zone
- The driver takes a curve at an unsafe speed
- The driver is driving at speeds unsafe given the type of road surface, especially on gravel
- Other emergency conditions exist
The officer may also charge the driver with reckless driving in weather conditions that reduce sight distance or decrease tire traction or braking efficiency, such as fog, snow, ice, sleet, or rain.
What Are Two Wet Driving Dangers Associated With Reckless Driving?
Many drivers mistakenly believe that driving on a wet road is no different than driving on a dry one. The water makes a huge difference, though. Two wet driving dangers that can occur if a driver is driving on wet roads at a high speed are:
- Hydroplaning: A layer of water gets between the vehicle’s tires and the road, causing the driver to lose steering and braking control. This often occurs in the first few minutes of driving, but can occur any time there is water on the road.
- Water in the brakes: If water gets into the vehicle’s brakes, it can reduce or eliminate their ability to stop the vehicle. Water may easily get into the brakes when driving through a puddle, especially if it the water is deeper than the driver expected.
What Are the Penalties for Driving Too Fast for Traffic and Road Conditions?
Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. As such, it carries significant penalties. If you are facing a reckless driving charge, Driving Defense Law may be able to assist you.
If convicted, the penalties for reckless driving may include:
- Jail sentence of one year
- Up to $2,500 fine
- Possible license suspension for 10 days to six months
- Six demerit points on the driver’s license
- Permanent criminal record
- Increased vehicle insurance costs
Can I Get a Reckless Driving Charge Reduced to a Lesser Offense?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the ticket, it may be possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed. Virginia Code § 46.2-869 states that if culpability is slight, the judge or prosecutor can charge the driver with improper driving instead of reckless driving. There are numerous factors that can affect getting these charges reduced, including having a previously clean driving record, showing the court that the infraction was a borderline case of speeding, taking a driving improvement course, and performing community service.
Tips for Safe Driving on Wet Roads
How do you drive safely on wet roads? Reducing speed is a good start, but there are additional steps you can take to ensure that you and the drivers around you are safe when driving on wet roads.
Remember the 30-Minute Danger
Drivers may think the longer it rains, the more dangerous the roads become. While this may be true for hazards associated with water depth, the roadway surface is often its most dangerous in the first 30 minutes after rain begins. This danger is due to the oil on the roads mixing with the water and creating extremely slippery conditions. As the rain continues, the oil begins to be washed away, and the danger then becomes standing and rapidly rising water.
Avoid Rapidly Rising Water
Rapidly rising water can sweep a vehicle away in an instant—and it only takes two feet of water to do it. Standing water and flooded streets may not look dangerous at first glance, but the water may be deeper than the driver realizes, especially if there are potholes that they cannot see. Additionally, flash flooding is unpredictable, and can turn a reservoir of standing water or a flooded street into rapidly rising water before the driver realizes what is happening.
Keep Your Distance
Beginning with a driver’s first driver’s education class, drivers are taught to keep some distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. On dry roads, two to three seconds may be enough. When driving on wet roads, extend that time to allow yourself to have control of your vehicle. This allows extra time to stop or otherwise react to any unexpected events in front of you.
Many drivers brake late or hard. They know their vehicles and think they know exactly how long it takes to stop. When driving on wet roads, however, braking can be unpredictable. Braking too hard can cause the vehicle to skid, or even to hydroplane under the right conditions. Take the time to brake early and slowly. Remember that although it does not happen as often in newer vehicles, water can still get in the brakes and cause them to lose their stopping power.
Avoid Cruise Control
Many drivers who know they tend to speed rely on cruise control to avoid speeding. While this may be a good idea when the weather is sunny and dry, cruise control while driving on wet roads is a bad idea. Conditions change rapidly when the roads are wet, and cruise control does not allow the driver to have enough control to quickly slow down, much less stop. Instead, drivers should skip cruise control and keep a watchful eye on their speedometer to make sure they are driving reasonably for the weather.
Do You Need Assistance With a Ticket After Driving on Wet Roads?
Driving on wet roads can be dangerous. Even if you are being cautious, things can get out of your control before you realize it. If you have recently been ticketed for reckless driving or other charges related to driving in poor weather in the Chesapeake or Norfolk area, Driving Defense Law may be able to assist you. You may schedule a free case evaluation by calling (757) 929-0335 to discuss your legal options.