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Virginia School Zones

Virginia State Speed Limits

The authority to establish and monitor Virginia speed limits lies primarily in the hands of the Transportation Commissioner; however, some towns and certain counties are permitted to establish speed limits within their jurisdiction, as long as the speed limits do not exceed the State speed limits.  Virginia State speed limits are recommended by engineers who have assessed the driving area using several factors in the surrounding areas that include traffic volume, population density, research on traffic patterns and traffic accidents and more.

The speed limit on most interstates in Virginia is 65 mph outside of urban areas and 55 mph near urban areas and on secondary routes which are numbered 600 and higher.  When traveling in a business, residential or school zone, the speed limit is 25 mph.  School zones are indicated by a pentagon-shaped sign or another signal, such as flashing lights.  In the absence of a sign or signal in School Zones, you are permitted to travel at the posted speed.  Even when a driver does not see a visibly posted speed limit, the aforementioned speed limits and driving rules must govern your driving speed.  


Fines for Speeding in a School Zone

The Virginia School Zone ticket and fines received for speeding in a School Zone differ quite a bit from those received in any other area in Virginia.  Also, other violations may be sited if your driving speed infraction is committed in Virginia School Zones.  According to the Virginia DMV, however, the speed guidelines and demerits that will post to your record are similar to those received in any area and are as follows: 

  • Speeding 1-9 mph above the posted speed limit is a 3-dmerit violation
  • Speeding 10-14 mph above the posted speed limit is a 4-demerit violation and might also carry a Reckless Driving fine
  • Speeding 15-19 mph above the posted speed limit is a 4-demerit violation and might also carry a Reckless Driving fine
  • Speeding 10-19 mph above the posted speed limit is a 4-demerit violation and might also carry a Reckless Driving fine
  • Speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit is a 6-demerit violation and will often carry a Reckless Driving violation, also

Drivers can expect to pay $6.00 per mile over speed limit when they are sited for speeding in a school zone.  Add to that any other fines for which you are cited and a processing fee of $62.00 and your final financial obligation becomes a hefty one!

There are other fines associated with School Zone tickets that a driver must be aware of:

  • Reckless driving - speeding in excess of 80 mph
  • Reckless driving - speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit
  • Reckless driving - passing a school bus (if the bus is on the opposite side of a road on a divided highway or on the other side of a divider, it is not necessary for a driver to stop)
  • Passing stopped school bus (non-reckless)

Reckless Driving is a misdemeanor in Virginia and is punishable by jail-time and up to a $2500.00 fine.  It is likely that, especially if sited for Reckless Driving or speeding in a School Zone, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to 6-months.  It is important to remember that school parking lots are considered Virginia School Zones and that a driver can be sited for Reckless Driving in this area.


The Importance of Child Safety

There is a reason that Virginia fines are so excessive in Virginia School Zones: children are occupying them!  We’ve all seen it happen – a child is playing innocently in the schoolyard when a ball rolls out into traffic.  A child’s first instinct is to chase that ball, and the child is often oblivious to the dangers they are facing.  It is likely that the child will suffer fatal consequences if you are driving at a speed that does not allow you to break on an instant.  

Also consider that a child is entering the roadway blind when they emerge from a School Bus.  If you are attempting to pass a school bus in your motor vehicle, it is likely that you are increasing your speed to beat oncoming traffic.  The child who emerges from behind a school bus has just stepped into the line of traffic, and you do not have time to break.  Again, that child will suffer a terrible fate.  It’s no wonder that these moving violations carry Reckless Driving implications, as you were certainly reckless in your decision-making behind-the-wheel of a potentially dangerous weapon.  If you are not aware of your environment, you cannot possibly make quick and informed decisions, and it is almost impossible for you to avoid serious harm to a child.  It is your responsibility as a driver to ensure the safety of children, both in your vehicle and in your general vicinity.


Virginia School Zone Identifiers

A driver must travel at a maximum of 25 mph when flashing lights indicate that you are approaching Virginia School Zones or school bus areas; otherwise, a driver may travel at the posted speed limit.

A driver must stop when flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus are visibly active, and a driver must remain stopped until the bus moves again.  Even if the signals are malfunctioning, if the school bus stops, you stop unless you are separated by barrier or median.  

A pentagon-shaped (five-sided) sign indicates Virginia School Zones and School Crossings. Signs may also show horizontal lines which indicate that a cross-walk exists.  Signs may have a separate downward-pointing arrow which signals the location of the crosswalk.  These pentagon-shaped signs may be white, yellow or gold.  It is also likely that the asphalt will be labeled with the words ‘School Zone’ or ‘School Crossing.’ 

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