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New laws for Virginia drivers
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New laws for Virginia drivers

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This is the time of year when new laws take effect.

There is one law drivers of all sorts of vehicles should be aware of, and another that hits all drivers where it hurts, whether you know it or not.

That new under-the-radar law is a gas tax increase.

On July 1, the Virginia gas tax crept up 5 cents to 26.2 cents per gallon, and the diesel fuel tax increased from 20.2 cents to 27 cents.

Along with the state levy, there are federal and local gas taxes.

The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, which hasn’t changed since 1993.

There is a local 2.1-percent tax on wholesale gas for localities that are partners with the Virginia Railway Express, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania. The localities use a portion of the revenue from that tax on area transportation projects.

This year’s state gas tax increase is the second recent bump approved in Virginia, with the first 5-cent increase taking effect July 2020 (when driving dropped precipitously because of the pandemic).

Beginning July 2022, the gas tax will be adjusted annually for inflation.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that state and federal taxes account for 19 percent of the cost at the pump.

The average price for a gallon of gas in Virginia on Friday was $2.93. That figure hasn’t changed in the past month, but is up from $1.96 a year ago, according to AAA.

Bikes and disability designations

The other new law is something everyone who uses a road should know about.

The law involves the space drivers need to allow for bikes, mopeds, motorized scooters, skateboards, wheelchairs and animals, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

A previous law allowed drivers to change lanes if the required 3-foot distance couldn’t be maintained in the proper lane.

The new law now requires drivers to change lanes in those situations. It also removes restrictions on bicyclists riding two abreast.

A final law of interest for drivers doesn’t necessarily affect what happens behind the wheel. It involves a voluntary expansion of the disability designation.

The new law allows owners whose vehicles are “regularly occupied by a person who has a communication impairment, such as autism, to voluntarily indicate so on their vehicle registration,” according to DMV.

The previous law applied only to vehicle owners with a disability, DMV said. The change alerts police that there might be a person with a communication impairment in the vehicle.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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