In Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes motorists high into the Appalachian Mountains, and three major interstates offer a more direct route through the commonwealth. Read on to find about the worst Virginia cities to drive in and what the states requires in car insurance and road safety.
Virginia Vehicle Insurance Requirements
Virginia is one of the safer states to drive in. Its insurance situation is unusual, though: drivers either have to have auto insurance or pay an annual uninsured motorist's fee of $500 (this means they're electing to drive an uninsured car at their own risk). An estimated 10 percent of the state's uninsured drivers elect to simply pay the annual fee when they register their vehicles each year, putting themselves and other motorists at financial risk in the event of an accident.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Virginia?
In Virginia, car owners are financially responsible for their vehicles, whether they're driven or parked by the curb. The state doesn't require insurance for vehicles stored on private property, but they cannot be registered for road use. A classic Mustang that's getting restored in the backyard or a garage, for example, doesn't need to be covered by insurance until it's licensed and registered.
Proof of Insurance
Virginia drivers are required to carry proof of insurance (or the uninsured motorists fee) while driving. Although insurance carriers still recommend keeping a card in the glovebox, the Virginia vehicle code allows drivers to store their insurance information on a smartphone.
The insurance card should have:
- Your name
- The policy number
- A telephone number to call for help in filing claims
You have to provide proof of insurance or the uninsured motorists fee after an accident, and be prepared to show it to any law enforcement officer who asks to see it.
Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements
Virginia requires you to have minimum liability insurance coverage of:
- $25,000 for injury to a single person.
- $50,000 for all injured persons in an accident. Once that $50,00 has been used up, any other injured individuals who want compensation can file a civil lawsuit against you.
- $20,000 for property damage.
Virginia cracks down on uninsured motorists with an online verification system that detects vehicle owners who don't comply with state law, says DMV spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker. "We partner with the insurance industry to verify who's covered by at least the minimum the law requires," she says. "Owners who are uninsured or haven't paid the uninsured motorist fee will have their driving and vehicle registration privileges suspended."
Alternatives to Insurance
If you own business vehicles, you may be able to self-insure or purchase a surety bond in lieu of insurance.
If you don't have auto insurance, you can still register your vehicle in Virginia and buy license plates by paying a mandatory $500 uninsured motorist's fee each year. Note: Paying this fee does not provide any auto insurance coverage. If you're an uninsured driver in Virginia, you are personally liable for any accident you cause.
What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in Virginia
Drivers who falsely claim they have coverage could lose their driver's license and vehicle registration. Restoring these privileges means:
- Paying a $500 fine
- Paying a $145 reinstatement fee
- Filing proof of insurance for three years. Insurance companies will notify the Virginia DMV if a policy is canceled during this period
Drivers must notify the DMV if their insurance policy is cancelled. If the state cancels your vehicle registration due to lack of insurance, you must send proof of coverage to the DMV in writing before the auto can be registered again.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
Nearly everyone wants cheap car insurance, but the required minimum isn't always enough to protect you.
If you can afford extra coverage, the Insurance Information Institute recommends a policy that pays $100,000 per injured person or $300,000 (known as 100/300) for all people injured in an accident. Consumer advocates also recommend uninsured motorist insurance, which would cover your medical bills in case you're hit by a driver without car insurance.
Lack Car Insurance in Virginia? 10.1% National Average: 12.6 %
If you have a loan for a new car, you'll also have to buy collision and comprehensive insurance.
Having trouble getting insurance because of a poor driving record or other reasons? Virginia has an assigned risk car insurance program that will help you get coverage, although it may cost more than regular insurance.
For more on the type of discounts you may qualify for, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.
Source: Insurance Research Council/Insurance Information Institute
Teen Drivers in Virginia
"Virginia's driving restrictions are not meant to penalize teen drivers, but to help them stay safe while they gain valuable driving experience," according to the state DMV. Drivers under 18 cannot be behind the wheel from midnight to 4 a.m. for safety reasons (although there are exceptions for emergencies, working teens, and teens supervised by an adult). Also, in the first year they have a license, teen drivers can only transport one other teenager at a time unless they have an adult with them. And there's no texting or talking on a smartphone (even hands-free) unless the car is parked. Still, auto insurance for teen drivers is almost always greater than for older drivers. To control these costs, the Virginia DMV suggests asking the insurance company for a higher deductible on any damages. Letting your teen use a large-frame family sedan with advanced crash protection and safety features may also lower your premium (while loaning out your sports car or SUV will raise it).
The Impact of a Teen Driver on Virginia Car Insurance Premiums
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$1,465 increase This is a difference of 97%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket for driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:
Driver Discounts for Virginia Teens
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$386 saved
How Auto Insurance Premiums Compare from Virginia Insurers
It pays to hunt around for the best bargains in car insurance. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Virginia:
Will Your Virginia Premiums Go Up With This Car?
Do insurers consider sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans? Definitely, according to industry experts -- and premium rates reflect it.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Virginia
Out-of-state students attending a Virginia school do not need a Virginia license if they have a valid license from their home state. For Virginia students enrolling in school in another state:
- Let the insurance company know if a vehicle will be used in the student's state for more than 30 days per year.
- Consider scaling back the student's coverage to "occasional driver" if your child won't be using a car often.
- Ask the insurance company about discounts for good grades and safe driving.
High School Drivers vs. College Students in Virgina
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$890 decrease This is a decrease of 28%.
Annual Rates With a College Student in Virginia
Each year, review your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better rate. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Virginia.
Virginia College Students: Distance Discount
You may get a modest break in your family's premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $3,080 at home
- $2,477 at school
- $603 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $2,710 at home
- $2,218 at school
- $492 in savings
Will Your Car Choice Affect Your Premium in Virginia?
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$3,435
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$2,227
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Virginia
The major insurance carriers in Virginia offer reduced rates for the state's nearly 130,000 active-duty military personnel and the more than 781,000 veterans. Geico maintains a special military center to serve the numerous bases in Virginia. In addition, there are also specialty insurance carriers who work just with military families on their coverage needs. Get at least three price quotes in writing to make a good comparison of prevailing rates.
The state DMV guide for military personnel covers insurance, licensing and registration requirements for enlisted men and women. While stationed in Virginia, if you purchase a vehicle, you can register that vehicle in your home state or in Virginia. Vehicles titled and registered in your name can be driven with a valid out-of-state license plate, but only if you are the sole owner. Co-owners must also be on active duty, otherwise the vehicle must be registered in Virginia.
If you're from Virginia but stationed outside the Old Dominion state, most of the business you would normally need to conduct with the DMV can be done online. There's a $2 discount when you register a vehicle for two years.
Virginia Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to insurance researchers, but an older model SUV still has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.
Military Drivers: How Premium Ranges Differ by Driver Age and Vehicle
Age Savings for Virginia
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to Virginia Military Personnel
When looking for the best quotes , it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Virginia.
Seniors in Virginia
In Virginia, insurance companies are required to offer lower auto insurance rates to drivers 55 and older who complete a state-approved crash prevention course, according to the DMV. Discounts vary by company. Other possible rate reductions for older Virginia drivers include discounts for multi-vehicle policies, installation of anti-theft devices and using the same carrier for both homeowner's and auto insurance.
Undocumented Workers in Virginia
Unlike some other states, Virginia law does not allow undocumented immigrants access to a driver's license, a prerequisite for buying car insurance.
However, if you came to the United States before your 16th birthday and meet some other legal requirements, you may be eligible for a license through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and other "ridesharing" companies use mobile technology to connect passengers to drivers. But if you're a driver working for these transportation network companies (TNCs), you may have substantial gaps in your car insurance coverage.
Personal car insurance policies generally exclude coverage for business use or "driving for hire," so you may depend on TNC's contingent coverage. However, in at least one ridesharing company, certain insurance coverage is available only when the driver picks up a passenger - not when he's on route to a pick-up. If you're a rideshare driver, talk with your insurance agent to see if you need more coverage.
Passengers should also be aware that they may not be fully covered in the event of a crash, as they would be in a taxi. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you're not at risk.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim
In Virginia, more than 120,000 vehicles crash annually, according to a 2015 state DMV report. Here's what to do if you're in an accident:
- Pull off to the side of the road, if possible.
- Call the police. In Virginia, the police are required to file an accident report on any accident involving injuries or property damage greater than $1,500.
- Exchange contact information with involved drivers and witnesses. Write down license plates, insurance policy numbers, telephone numbers and home addresses.
- Call the insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. Insurance carriers will contact the police directly to obtain official accident reports. Your agent will likely advise you not to admit to fault, since the police and insurance company will determine that.
Best and Worst States for Driver Safety: How Does Virginia Rank?
Virginia ranks in the top 12 safest states for driving fatalities, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (it's number 13 if you count the District of Columbia. However, two of its cities — Arlington and Alexandria — are among the 10 worst cities for car crashes in the United States. The Virginia DMV offers a breakdown on types and number of driver infractions in the state, noting that a car crashes in Virginia every 4.37 minutes. However, Virginia is improving, with fatalities decreasing 5.5 percent between 2013 and 2014. According to Brubaker, Virginia law enforcement officials maintain regular speed and sobriety checkpoints throughout the commonwealth to reduce accidents and drunk driving fatalities.
Virginia Driver Safety Ranking
The driver safety table shows the different safety factors that contribute to your state's overall safety rank (in the green box). The overall safety ranking and the National Ranking column scores in each category (including crash fatality rates) are from safest to most dangerous, with 1st being the safest and 51st the least safe.
How did we create the safety rankings?
We created a traffic safety ranking of all US states plus the District of Columbia by combining data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We looked at fatality rates by distance traveled as well as by population and gave more weight to behaviors that were riskier and preventable (i.e., drunk driving, not using a seat belt), as well as to accidents that involved more than one party (i.e., multi-vehicle).
|Driver Safety Profile||Number of Fatalities||Fatality Rate
The fatality rate is the rate per one billion vehicle miles traveled, except for pedestrian and bicyclist fatality measures, which are per measured per a population of 100,000.
Rankings are in order of safest to least safe. A state with the lowest fatality rate would be the safest, and thus ranked #1.
|Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities||252||3.12||22nd|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||300||3.71||28th|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||3||0.04||4th|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||286||3.54||11th|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||740||9.16||13th|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Virginia: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Virginia motor vehicle laws are intended to protect drivers, although some are clearly outdated (not to mention bizarre). In the town of Waynesboro, for instance, it's illegal for a woman to drive a car up Main Street unless her husband is walking in front of the car waving a red flag. While there are no statistics on violations of these obscure local laws in Virginia, other statewide road safety laws are routinely enforced:
- Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory throughout Virginia.
- All motorcyclists are required to wear helmets.
- Children under the age of 8 must be secured in an approved child-safety seat.
Safe Driving Laws - Virginia
|Mandatory seatbelts||Seatbelts must be worn by driver and all passengers.|
|Child passenger safety||Children 8 and younger must ride in a federally approved safety seat.|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher are considered drunk and subject to arrest. Penalties include fines, ignition interlocks, license revocation up to a year for the first offense, and possible jail time (penalties increase for multiple offenses).|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Drivers convicted of a DUI must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||It's illegal to drive and text in Virginia. Drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from driving while talking on a cell phone, even hands-free.|
|Protections for young drivers||Graduated driver's licensing. Drivers under 18 can carry only one passenger under 21. Drivers under 18 can't drive between midnight and 4 a.m. unless it's for employment or with adult supervision. Strict cell phone laws (see above).|
|Motorcycle helmet law||Helmet use required for all motorcyclists (universal helmet law passed in 1970).|
|Bicycle helmet law||No statewide law|
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, 2016
Car Insurance Resources for Virginia Residents
Legal rights for Virginia drivers compiled by the State Corporation Commission.
How the DMV monitors whether drivers maintain insurance coverage.
Tips for buying auto insurance in Virginia, including credit scoring and consumer rights.
A non-profit devoted to improving driving safety through better laws.