State law changes for drivers cover dooring, passenger restrictions for young motorists

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VIRGINIA BEACH – Beginning today, drivers risk a $50 fine if they aren’t careful when opening their door when parked on the side of a road.

A new state law passed this year by the General Assembly targets the act of “dooring,” the term for opening a door in the path of a cyclist or other vehicle. The impact can seriously injure or kill bicyclists, the Virginia DMV said in a release.

Senate Bill 117 makes opening a vehicle door when it is not reasonably safe to do so a traffic infraction punishable by a $50 fine. Here is the code section in full:

No operator shall open the door of a parked motor vehicle on the side adjacent to moving vehicular traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so.

A violation of this section shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. No demerit points shall be awarded by the Commissioner for a violation of this section.

The provisions of this section shall not apply to any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel engaged in the performance of his duties.

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Another law taking effect today changes restrictions for young drivers. Senate Bill 555 prohibits provisional driver’s license holders younger than 18 from having more than one passenger who is under 21, with the exception of household or family members, according to the DMV. That restriction was previously applied only to passengers under 18.

Also, holders of provisional driver’s licenses can no longer have more than one passenger under 21, even if a parent is present, with the exception of household or family members. A provisional license is the initial license issued to any person younger than 18.

The new law also clarifies that learner’s permit holders may not use a phone or other wireless telecommunications device while driving, even in hands-free mode, except for an emergency or when lawfully parked or stopped, according to the DMV.

In another change, 18-year-olds with a learner’s permit can now apply for a driver’s license after holding their permit for 60 days, rather than nine months, as was the rule previously.

The DMV also noted two other department-related law changes that take effect today:

  • Organ donors registered through DMV will stay on the registry unless they ask to be removed.
  • Upon application, the DMV will issue refunds of fuels taxes for fuels used in vehicles owned by a hunger-relief nonprofit when the vehicle is being used for that purpose.

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