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The Courtesy Trap – A common form of reckless driving.

The courtesy trap is when a driver politely stops and waives you through multiple lanes of traffic only to have you driving in to an oncoming car that is obscured by the misguided but courteous driver. The happens all the time on busy left turns that cross more than one lane of traffic. The closer lanes stop and let you turn left but you can’t see clearly what is coming in the second or third lane. You pull gingerly into the intersection and wham!

When this happens the driver who turned left gets a tickets and the courteous driver who waived you through almost never stops and waits for the police. The police almost always write tickets in these situations.

If the officer is nice, the ticket is for failure to yield on a left hand turn under Va. Code 46.2-825. Failure to yield on a left hand turn is a civil infraction with a max fine of $250.Prepaying this ticket or pleading guilty or pleading “no contest” can be used against you in a civil law suit as an admission that you violated the law. This can make it simpler to sue in some cases. If there are injuries in the accident, you should consult an attorney before prepaying or pleading guilty.

However, often the police will issue a reckless driving charge under 46.2-852 (General Reckless Driving). Reckless driving is a criminal charge with up to a $2,500 fine, 12 months in jail, and a 6 month loss of license. A reckless driving conviction will stay on your permanent criminal record forever. If you have a spotty driving record, if the accident involved injuries or was particularly serious, or if the officer seemed particularly aggressive then these may be signs that you are facing more than the usual serious consequences.

Even though reckless driving is charge frequently in courtesy trap situations, these charges can be easy to beat. General reckless driving requires the state to prove that a drive was operating their vehicle with disregard for the safety or well being of others or their property. Because this is such an easy mistake to make, it may be hard to prove that accident was the result of disregard for safety.

Often the other driver’s behavior is also a factor. Where they speeding, drunk, distracted, on their phone, texting ect.

If you are charge with reckless driving because of a courtesy trap consult an attorney immediately.


Luke J. Nichols

About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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