This year is adding up to be a year of change for the commonwealth. From 2021 legislation regarding balloon releasing, voting rights, and gun control taking effect Thursday, July 1, a few new laws will affect Virginia motorists. To add to last year's new driving laws, drivers in the commonwealth will see definitions around the use of legalized cannabis in a car, changes in state auto insurance minimums, and driving with bicyclist's safety in mind.
Marijuana use while driving
While growing and possessing certain amounts of marijuana will be legalized on July 1st in Virginia, consuming it in any form while driving remains against the law. That goes for passengers riding in the car as well. Violators will be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor charge and a $250 fine.
This is not to be confused with HB 5058 and SB 5029 laws, which do not allow searches or charges for the sole reason of smelling the odor of marijuana in a car. However, any vessel containing the product not in “the originally sealed manufacturer’s container” is considered an open container that is still prohibited and grounds for charges. This law is similar to the commonwealth's laws regarding open containers, use of alcohol or other substances while driving, as well as impaired driving, all illegal in Virginia.
What about ridesharing and other transportation services? Hired drivers, including school bus drivers, may not carry any marijuana, closed and put away or not, or can face a Class 1 Misdemeanor. While a rideshare driver is not held responsible for passengers carrying and using cannabis, it may not be legally consumed while riding with the service.
Minimum liability insurance limits
You may be wondering if cheap car insurance is worth it in Virginia. Another new law impacting Virginia drivers sheds light on the answer to that question, as well as the exponential cost of speeding and traffic collisions. Currently, the minimum Virginia car insurance coverage requirement is $25,000 in bodily injury and death to one person and $50,000 in bodily injury and death for two or more people.
Beginning July 1, 2021, Virginia's new law will require car insurance policies effective January 1, 2022, through January 1, 2025, to increase bodily injury and death minimums to $30,000 and $60,000, respectively. After January 1, 2025, new policies will increase to $50,000 for one person and $100,000 for two or more people with bodily injury or death in a car crash.
Drivers and Bicyclists
Another new law going into effect on July 1, 2021, brings attention to bicycle safety in Virginia and hopes to reduce the number of crashes between vehicles and bicyclists. Our current law requires the motorist to provide a safe distance of three feet when passing a bicyclist, skateboard, or scooter.
The new law requires drivers to change lanes to maintain the three feet of space when passing, crossing the yellow line if needed to "share the road." It also ends the requirement for multiple bicyclists to file into a single line when being passed by vehicles. Bicyclists can now continue to ride side by side in pairs along a single lane even as drivers approach and pass. Hopefully, these new laws will offer more freedom and protection for bicyclists on the road.
Be safe on Virginia roads this summer and the rest of the year. Remember Virginia's newly enforced hands-free driving law. While you may be more focused on saving money on gas, you can save money on your car insurance by driving safely and following Virginia's driving laws.