By MELINDA WILLIAMS
The Virginia Senate Friday passed “Andrew’s Law” in a 40-0 vote, thus sending the proposed reckless driving legislation to the House of Delegates.
Sen. Phillip Puckett (D-38th District) introduced the legislation at the request of the family of Pulaski County-based State Trooper Andrew Fox. The trooper was struck by a vehicle and killed while directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair in October 2012.
The Senate-approved bill contained several changes, including the possibility of a more severe penalty.
Under the substitute bill, reckless driving that results in the “death or permanent and significant physical impairment” of “certain workers” would be a Class 5 felony in Virginia instead of the originally proposed Class 6 felony.
Class 5 felonies carry the possibility of up to 10 years in prison, compared to a maximum of five years for Class 6 felonies.
The bill also inserts the provision that the “worker” not be inside a vehicle. The worker, however, must be on a public roadway or in a work zone while engaged in official duties.
Workers are defined as emergency medical services personnel, firefighters, government employees or contractors and law enforcement officers.
If the bill passes the Virginia General Assembly as currently written, those convicted would receive a mandatory $2,500 fine, their driving privileges would be suspended for a year, and the court could impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
Funds collected through the civil penalty would be deposited into the state’s general fund.
The driver who struck and killed Fox was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving. She was fined $1,000 and given a suspended 12-month jail sentence.