Vehicles and Driving
Do I need a car, or is public transportation readily available? Personal transportation is essential in this region. You will need to own at least one car since reliable and consistent public transportation is virtually non-existent.
RENTING/HIRING A VEHICLE
Do I need to purchase additional insurance when renting/hiring a car in the United States? YES, unless you have a current automobile insurance policy which protects you while driving in the United States. With rare exception, the price quoted by telephone or via the Internet by car rental companies does NOT include insurance to protect you in the event of an accident. Although some automobile policies insure drivers when renting vehicles, most individuals do not have such insurance upon arrival in the United States.
Although in some instances, insurance policies from Canada and some European companies extend to the United States, they are often limited to the 'collision damage waiver' (CDW) coverage, and do NOT include liability coverage. If required, purchasing the CDW and liability insurance often increases the price by 100% or greater.
Where can I find additional information? Contact your current automobile insurance company to inquire as to whether you are covered (damage and liability coverage) in the United States, and contact the rental car company for additional information. You can also consult the "Vehicle Insurance" section of this Guide for more information.
PURCHASING A VEHICLE
Are reliable cars readily available? YES, but you should educate yourself about the process of buying a car, whether new or used, prior to visiting a car lot or buying privately from an individual. Purchasing a vehicle very soon after arrival is common since most staff try to avoid excessive rental car costs. As indicated earlier in the "Customs" section, you can import your own car free of US Customs importation duties.
Any suggestions on buying a vehicle? Do your homework, request a vehicle history report for the vehicle, ask if a warranty is provided, ensure it has a current/valid safety inspection (consult section entitled, "Vehicle Safety Inspection"), get a second opinion and take someone with you who has recently purchased a vehicle. The price of new and used vehicles in the United States IS negotiable at most dealers (there are a few new car dealers that have "fixed pricing", but most are prepared to, and expect that you will, negotiate the price). Car salesmen typically place a lot of pressure to purchase a vehicle the same day you take it for a "test drive"—ensure that you are not rushed into this purchase. You will want to ensure that you are not paying more for the vehicle than it is worth. It is strongly recommended that you ensure the vehicle has a current safety inspection sticker (on the center of the windshield) (see section entitled "Vehicle Safety Inspection" later in this Guide). If the inspection has expired, it is recommended that you request the owner to have the vehicle inspected prior to purchase.
Vehicle History Reports:
One car dealer advertises that they provide a vehicle history report. Are these reports available to individuals? YES, and it is highly recommended that you obtain a vehicle history report prior to purchasing a used vehicle.
Where can I obtain vehicle history reports? For a fee, services such as "CARFAX" (http://www.carfax.com) or AutoCheck (http://www.autocheck.com) use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to conduct a search to determine whether the vehicle was involved in a major auto accident, received flood damage, odometer (mileage indicator) tampering, etc., and whether any recall notices were issued, and completed, for that vehicle.
How much do these reports cost? They can be purchased (approximately $20-30) per report, or you can purchase the service for a month or for a specific number of reports (e.g., 5). You should request that the dealer or seller purchase the report on your behalf. If the vehicle is "clean" (meaning it has no defects and is in good condition), the dealer may already have conducted the report and will be happy to provide it to you.
Where can I find additional information regarding vehicle purchases in the United States? It is recommended that you consult the information brochures available on the internet about buying a used vehicle, such as http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/autos/buy.shtm links to additional publications including buying a used and new vehicle; http://www.car-buying-strategies.com/used-cars.html, http://www.carbuyingtips.com/used.htm. For information regarding the safety ratings (between 1 and 5 stars) of vehicles, please consult http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers.
Do I need air conditioning in my vehicle? YES. Air conditioning is desirable during the summer months when temperatures reach 90º+F (approximately 33°C), so you will want to ensure that the vehicle has air conditioning and that it is working properly.
Is it possible to find out the fuel economy on a vehicle I am considering purchasing? Please consult: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm to find out the approximate fuel costs, carbon footprint, and air pollution scores for vehicles you are considering purchasing. The website lists vehicles both by year and make/model.
Vehicle Safety Inspection:
What is a safety inspection, and do I need one? A safety inspection is required each year for all vehicles (and most trailers) registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia (or any other state in the United States that requires safety inspections) regardless of whether you purchased the vehicle in the United States or imported it.
Where can I get my vehicle inspected? An official safety inspection station must complete this inspection. Many auto repair facilities are licensed to conduct safety inspections and are located throughout the local cities. Consult the Virginia State Police website (http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Safety.shtm) for locations and information regarding this requirement. The Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) service station immediately outside the main gate of the HQ also conducts safety inspections, or you can look for the blue sign stating "Official Safety Inspection Station" at auto repair facilities throughout the area.
What is the charge for this inspection? A safety inspection station is not permitted to charge more than $16 for the inspection fee for motor vehicles and trailers. The inspection fee for a motorcycle is $12. These fees may be increased by Virginia legislature. Any required repairs to the vehicle are in addition to the $16 fee. For additional details please refer to: http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Safety.shtm.
How can I tell if my vehicle has a current vehicle safety inspection? Each vehicle should have a current safety inspection sticker displayed on the lower portion of the windshield in the center. Also there is either a (pink or a single sheet of paper) Virginia (or other) State Police inspection receipt which is required to be inside the vehicle. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, you should compare the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the receipt to the VIN plate which is located on the driver's side dashboard in the corner to ensure this receipt matches the vehicle. If the current owner of the vehicle states that he has "lost" this receipt, inform him/her that they need to go back to the garage that conducted the inspection and obtain another receipt, or have the vehicle re-inspected. When purchasing a vehicle, it is recommended that you request that the dealership or current owner obtain a new vehicle safety inspection (even if there are several months remaining on the present safety inspection).
Why is this inspection required? The purpose of the annual inspection is to ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition (brakes, tires, signal indicators, etc.). If the car passes the inspection, a safety inspection sticker will be displayed on the (bottom center of the) vehicle's windshield and you will receive a (pink or a single sheet of paper) State Police Inspection receipt which should be kept inside the vehicle.
What if my vehicle fails the inspection? If your vehicle fails the inspection and requires repairs, you can have the garage complete the repairs for you—always request a written estimate of required repairs prior to authorizing the repairs. If you would like to make the repairs yourself or take it to another repair facility for evaluation, estimate or repair, request a rejection sticker. This rejection sticker will be valid for 15 days from that date.
Can I drive my vehicle with a rejection sticker? YES. According to the Virginia State Police website (http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Safety.shtm#FAQSafety) you are permitted to operate your vehicle with the rejection sticker for a 15-day period in addition to the day of inspection.
Can I be stopped by the police with a rejection sticker on my windshield? YES. If your vehicle was rejected for having defective equipment (e.g., defective exhaust) and a rejection sticker was placed on your windshield, you are at risk of receiving a summons for operating the vehicle on the highway with defective equipment (e.g., defective exhaust).
I have had my vehicle repaired. What is the next step? Once the repairs have been completed, you can return your vehicle to the original inspection facility and request a re-inspection; the maximum fee for each re-inspection is $1. If you take your vehicle to a different garage for re-inspection, they are permitted to charge the standard inspection fee of $16.
What if I do not return to an inspection station with the 15-days? If you are stopped by the police for Driving after Expiration of Rejection Inspection Sticker or Failure to Correct Defects Discovered by the Inspection (VA Code 46.2-1158), this would incur (currently) a $50 fine plus court costs of approximately $51.
Could I be fined for driving with an expired inspection sticker? YES. In accordance with VA Code 46.2-1158, you can be fined for Failure to have Vehicle Inspected and this would incur (currently) a $30 fine plus court costs of approximately $51.
Where/How to Purchase a Vehicle:
Are there particular car dealerships that you recommend? Representatives of the Office of the Legal Advisor do not specifically endorse or guarantee the quality or ethical practices of any car dealership. The decision to buy a car is a private and personal decision. A general recommendation is to use a dealership recommended by colleagues or a one-price dealership, such as Carmax or Driver's World.
I found a used vehicle for sale privately by the owner. Is this recommended? The advantage of purchasing a vehicle from its previous owner is that they frequently ask a lower price than a dealership, but rarely offer any warranty. If you purchase a vehicle from a private owner, ensure that the individual actually owns the vehicle (has the vehicle registration, certificate of title – document verifying ownership, etc.) and that those documents are listed in the "seller's" name.
How can I ensure that the individual trying to sell the vehicle actually owns it? Ensure he/she has the original certificate of title and that he/she has provided government issued photo identification verifying the individual's identity. Do not pay for the vehicle until all owners listed on the certificate of title have signed the document.
What is the best way to pay for the vehicle? There are many ways to pay for a vehicle. Please be aware that you should NEVER PAY CASH to a private individual—pay with a certified bank cheque upon receipt of the fully executed certificate of title. If the current owner owes money to a financial institution for the vehicle, he/she will not have the certificate of title. In this case, you should only pay the money directly to the financial institution where the current owner has the car loan (and where the certificate of title is held)—accompany the owner to his/her bank—and give the bank representative the money. Any additional amounts that you pay over the outstanding amount of the loan can be returned to the individual by the bank. This will ensure that the certificate of title will be released. However, the certificate of title will be released to the current owner, who will then have to deliver to you. This can take several weeks during which you are not able to legally operate the vehicle. If you are considering such a transaction, contact a representative in the Legal Assistance section for guidance and additional information.
What documents do I receive when I purchase a vehicle? Whether you buy from a car dealer or a private individual, you should receive an original, fully-executed, certificate of title. In addition, and although not required in the Commonwealth of Virginia, representatives in the Office of the Legal Advisor can provide a "Bill of Sale", which serves as further evidence of the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer, and also contains provisions regarding warranties (if extended by seller), vehicle registration requirements, etc.
Average Price for Vehicles in the United States:
How do I determine what the fair-market value for a used vehicle is in US dollars? You can check the value of new cars (invoice price versus manufacturer's suggested retail price) and used cars on the Internet. Examples of sites are http://www.kbb.com and http://www.edmunds.com. At Annex D-1 is a "Checklist for Purchasing a Vehicle", which you may find helpful.
How do I determine a fair price for a new vehicle? Ensure that you know the 'invoice' price and the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). In most instances, the invoice price is not the price that the dealer paid for the car--the greater volume of vehicles sold, the greater discount the dealer receives. Car dealers have a systematic method of 'selling' a vehicle, and you should expect to spend several hours completing the purchase of a vehicle. During this process, many dealers will try to sell "extras" on the vehicle, such as stain protection for the vehicle's interior, coating for the undercarriage of the vehicle, etc. Be aware that these items yield high profits for the dealer. You may consult the Consumer Action Handbook's general tips when purchasing a vehicle available at www.usa.gov/topics/consumer.shtml , for more information. The best advice is to do your homework and research before purchasing the vehicle, options, or any extras.
Is it easier to negotiate the price of new versus used vehicles? It depends upon a variety of factors, including the dealer, number of cars on the lot, and how long a particular vehicle has been on the lot.
Any suggestions on financing the purchase of a car through a local bank? It is strongly recommended that you shop for and arrange the loan or financing before you begin looking for a car. Interest rates on vehicle loans can vary greatly between different banks, credit unions and finance companies. In general, the interest rate on a used-car loan coordinated through a car dealer will be significantly higher than you could arrange privately through your bank or credit union. Although not universally true, many car dealers, especially the small dealers, arrange vehicle financing on your behalf with finance companies (as opposed to banks and credit unions), and the average interest rate charged by finance companies is generally higher. You can discuss a new or used car loan with the loan officer at your bank or credit union upon establishing your checking and savings accounts. You should never discuss financing with a car dealer until you have agreed on the purchase price.
Most car salesmen try to determine what monthly payment you can afford or are willing to pay, and work with that figure, instead of the total purchase price—this is not to your advantage.
Do not drive the car from the lot, other than for a test drive, prior to finalizing the financing and insurance. Ensure that you know the interest rate, monthly payment and the total finance charge you will pay over the period of the loan before you sign the contract.
I prefer to purchase a used vehicle. Does a used vehicle have a warranty similar to a new vehicle? Not unless the manufacturer's warranty remains valid, or the dealer has provided a warranty at no-cost to you. In either event, you should receive documentation of the warranty from the dealer in writing. Used cars, especially ones with high mileage, are routinely sold "As-Is", meaning there is no warranty and no remedy once you sign the ownership documents and drive the car away.
There is greater risk in purchasing a used vehicle than a new vehicle because the risk of mechanical failures increases as the car ages, so caution should be exercised, especially when purchasing an older vehicle.
Do the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia protect me in the event of issues with my used car? NO. Unlike new vehicles, Virginia laws offer no legal protection or remedy for used cars, unless the car was sold with a warranty—and then the remedy is limited to that which the warranty provides, which is generally quite limited. There are many reputable used car dealers; however, used car buyers have little legal protection in Virginia. Ask your sponsor or colleagues for recommendations regarding reputable car dealers. You can also check with the local Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org) or with the local consumer protection office to see if a particular dealer has received consumer complaints. Contact a representative in the Office of the Legal Advisor with questions related to this matter.
Are all used-car warranties created equal? NO. If the vehicle is sold with a warranty, or you choose to purchase a warranty for the vehicle, ensure that you thoroughly understand what the warranty does NOT cover. There have been several NATO staff members who have bought used cars that have experienced serious mechanical malfunctions and failures immediately after driving the vehicle away from the dealership or within a few days of purchase. Unless the vehicle has a warranty, you will have NO legal remedy. The person or dealer who sold you the car is not obligated to further assist you unless you have a warranty for the car.
I thought that all new vehicles came with a manufacturer's warranty? YES, but those warranties vary significantly by manufacturer and model. In addition, most car dealers offer extended warranty plans for both new and used vehicles. Be advised that car dealers profit from the sale of an extended warranty; therefore, you should read the entire warranty plan since few cover everything—ask what the warranty plan does not cover.
Virginia has a "lemon law" which provides a remedy if your new vehicle meets one of the following criteria within the first 18 months: (i) has been repaired for the same defect three or more times; (ii) repaired one or more times for a serious safety defect; or (iii) is out of service for a total of at least 30 days (cumulative) and the defect is still present. If you believe you have purchased a "lemon" and require assistance, please contact representative in the Legal Assistance Section.
Is the warranty transferrable to a new owner when I sell the vehicle? Maybe. You should ensure prior to purchasing a warranty that it is transferable to the new owner if you sell the vehicle.
Can I get a used vehicle inspected by an independent automobile mechanic prior to purchase? YES, and you should if the seller is not offering a warranty. You may want to ask a colleague if he knows an automobile mechanic (not affiliated with the present owner/dealer) who will perform a mechanical/diagnostic inspection prior to your purchase of a used vehicle (such inspections normally cost less than $100). Mileage on used vehicles tends to be higher in the United States than in Europe, keep this in mind and ensure that the vehicle has a good service history and has received regular oil changes.
At Annex D-2 there is a form for your use in conducting a used vehicle inspection in the event you don't wish to engage an automobile mechanic.
LEASING A VEHICLE
I am considering leasing a vehicle; is this common among international staff? NO. A lease is a legal agreement to "rent a vehicle" for a specific term (24 to 36 months are the most common). Most leases are arranged by the dealer through a lease programme offered directly by the vehicle's manufacturer, and in some instances, certain finance companies. You cannot separate the financing (lease contract) from the vehicle's price. Leasing a vehicle is complicated since it is difficult to compare deals from one dealer to another. Dealers are aware of this and recognize that it makes shopping for the "best deal" very confusing.
Why buy a vehicle when leasing a vehicle is cheaper? Many people think that leasing a vehicle is much less expensive than buying the car. This is not always accurate, and prior to signing a lease agreement for a vehicle, you should ensure that you could not "purchase" the vehicle for approximately the same monthly payment. Many financial institutions now offer alternatives that allow you to purchase a car at a lower monthly payment, with a "balloon payment" option (a large payment due at the end of the loan term). If you choose a loan with a balloon payment, you want to ensure that the estimated value of the vehicle at the end of the loan period will be more than the amount of the balloon payment, so when you sell the vehicle you can pay the balloon amount.
Are there any other issues/disadvantages when leasing a vehicle? If you lease a vehicle, it will likely be "titled" (registered) in the leasing company's name along with your name (most leased vehicles are titled in this manner). If it is the case that the vehicle is titled in the company's name along with the NATO/PfP staff member's name (who is exempt from personal property taxes under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, or PfP Status of Forces Agreement, by incorporation), there will be no exemption from personal property taxes (several hundred dollars per year). You will also be responsible to pay local vehicle registration (LVR) fees if the leased vehicle is registered in both your and the dealers name.
If I lease a vehicle, and am then re-assigned earlier than my original end-of-tour date, am I relieved of my obligation under the contract? Early termination clauses which extend to US military personnel do not apply to international military personnel, unless the clause was modified during negotiations—and prior to signing. Most vehicle leases have an assignment fee (charge to establish the lease) and penalties for early termination (as much as several thousand dollars), excess mileage (amount of miles driven is more than the "allowable" miles under the agreement), damages (even slight dents and scratches), administrative fees (if you do not "purchase" the car at the end of the lease), etc. You should thoroughly research leasing versus buying a vehicle prior to signing the lease contract.
I'm buying a vehicle from a car dealer, colleague, or private owner. Do they register the vehicle for me with Virginia authorities? NO. Transfer of vehicle ownership is the responsibility of the buyer, and vehicle registration license plates or tags do NOT transfer with the ownership of the vehicle. The seller retains the license plates and is required to inform Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials of the sale of the vehicle. The seller can notify DMV officials by completing the reverse side of the vehicle registration card indicating the date the vehicle was sold, and mailing the registration card to DMV, or delivering it to a local DMV Customer Service Center. You should not operate this motor vehicle until you have arranged and received proof of insurance (i.e., insurance binder) (see section entitled "Vehicle Insurance" later in this Guide).
Names on Vehicle Registration:
My colleague told me not to put my spouse's name on the vehicle registration of the car he/she will be driving. Why? It is highly recommended that vehicles be registered in the name of the NATO/PfP serving staff member as only the member is exempt from personal property tax and local vehicle registration fees (see later section regarding personal property tax and local vehicle registration fees). If the vehicle is registered in your spouse's name, or registered jointly with both of your names on the title/registration, the total amount of the personal property taxes and local vehicle registration fees must be paid.
Can my spouse drive a vehicle that is not registered in his/her name? YES, provided that he/she is listed on your insurance policy as a driver. Insurance companies require that all licensed drivers living in your household be listed on your insurance policy, or have their own insurance policy.
US-Purchased Vehicle—DMV Registration and Documentation Requirements:
What documents do I need to register a vehicle bought locally from a car dealer? If you purchased a vehicle from a car dealer, they will ordinarily arrange the registration directly with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for you—and you are paying a fee for this service (usually $300-400)!
NOTE: A dealer representative will ordinarily request your social security number (SSN); the SSN is required by DMV officials in order to finalize and grant permanent registration for your vehicle. If you do not yet have an SSN, the dealer will be able to only provide a temporary registration document and paper license plate or 'tag' valid for 30 days. Therefore, you should request that the dealer contact Virginia DMV officials at the "Data Integrity Desk" and request a "T" number for you. If they are unaware of this procedure, contact a representative in the Office of the Legal Advisor (at +1 757 747 3228/3640) and we will provide the information.
What documents do I need to register a vehicle bought locally from a private owner? If you buy a vehicle from a private owner, you will register the vehicle at DMV yourself and will need to take: (1) Fully-executed Original Certificate of Title (ownership document); and (2) Proof of address in compliance with DMV Form 177 (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv177.pdf). A few of the acceptable documents on DMV Form 177 which most HQ personnel are able to provide include: (1) an original monthly bank statement dated within 60 days; (2) a bill from a utility provider; (3) current vehicle insurance bill; or (4) a lease agreement.
You are required to complete the "Insurance Certification" section on DMV VSA 17A, "Application for Certificate of Title and Registration" (http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/vsa17a.pdf) at the time of registration; therefore, you MUST have a Virginia automobile insurance policy in effect. Most Virginia car dealers will require proof of insurance to be provided, or faxed to them by your insurance company, prior to releasing a vehicle to you upon your purchase. DMV officials do not ordinarily request proof of insurance at the time of registration, but it is strongly suggested that you take your insurance binder or policy with you.
Please note a Bill of Sale is not ordinarily required by DMV, but if required, a template can be obtained from the Legal Assistance Section.
You are not required to present (show) the proof of vehicle safety inspection at the time of registration of the vehicle with DMV. However, it is strongly recommended that you ensure the vehicle has a current safety inspection sticker (on the center of the windshield) (see section entitled "Vehicle Safety Inspection" later in this Guide). If the inspection has expired, it is recommended that you request the owner to have the vehicle inspected prior to purchase as you are not permitted to operate a vehicle in Virginia without a valid vehicle safety inspection, evidenced by the 'sticker' on the windshield.
Please see Annex D-3 for "DMV Registration and Documentation Requirements".
What documents do I need to register a vehicle bought from another US state? This transaction is the same as buying from a private owner in Virginia. Follow the steps in the question above regarding documentation requirements.
I intend to purchase or have purchased a vehicle from another US state. Do I have to have the vehicle shipped to me, or can I drive it to my home and then register it? You may not legally operate a vehicle on Virginia roadways without a valid license plate or tag, and insurance. If the seller removes the license plate/tags—as they should—you should obtain a (3-day) Trip Permit from DMV, which will allow you to drive the vehicle home within the 3-day period until you can register it. You can obtain the trip permit at a local DMV Customer Service Center, or online at https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/dmvnet/trip_permit/intro.asp. Please note you MUST certify that you have liability insurance in order to obtain this trip permit!
Imported Vehicle—DMV Registration and Documentation Requirements:
What documents do I need to register an imported vehicle? You will register the imported vehicle at DMV yourself and will need to take: (1) Authentic source of ownership document and English translation (if not in English language); (2) US Customs Form (various possibilities) including an original customs stamp and signature; (3) US Department of Transportation NHTSA HS-7 Declaration; (4) Environmental Protection Agency Form EPA 3520-1; and (5) Proof of address in compliance with DMV Form 177 (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv177.pdf). A few of the acceptable documents on DMV Form 177 which most HQ personnel are able to provide include: (1) an original monthly bank statement dated within 60 days; (2) a bill from a utility provider; (3) current vehicle insurance bill; or (4) a lease agreement.
As previously stated, you are required to complete the "Insurance Certification" section on DMV Form VSA 17A, "Application for Certificate of Title and Registration" (http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/vsa17a.pdf) at the time of registration; therefore, you MUST have a Virginia automobile insurance policy in effect. DMV officials do not ordinarily request proof of insurance at the time of registration, but it is strongly suggested that you take your insurance binder or policy with you.
Please see Annex D-3 for "DMV Registration and Documentation Requirements".
I'm going to retrieve my imported vehicle; can I drive it home without registering it at DMV? YES, if it has valid license plates/tags from another country or US state and insurance (from a company licensed to do business in Virginia). If not, you should either register the vehicle with DMV or obtain a trip permit (addressed in the preceding section) prior to driving the vehicle.
How soon do I have to register my imported vehicle in Virginia? International military personnel and civilians are required to register their imported vehicles with DMV within 30 days of the vehicle's arrival into the United States pursuant to VA Code §46.2-600. During that initial 30-day period, the car may only be driven on Virginia roadways provided it has valid license plates issued by another nation and insurance (from a company licensed to do business in Virginia). The DMV representative will likely keep the original import documents upon registration of the vehicle. Therefore, it is advised that you bring all the original import documents to the Office of the Legal Advisor who can provide certified true copies for you to retain throughout your tour as they are often requested when you are exporting the vehicle.
Vehicle Registration Fees and Taxes:
What fees am I required to pay when I register/purchase/import a vehicle? You are required to pay the annual vehicle registration (i.e., the licensing fee), currently $40.75 for passenger vehicles weighing 4,000 pounds or less. If you request personalized or other special Virginia plate, the fees increase in accordance with your selection. Personalized plates are popular and can be obtained for an additional charge of a minimum of $10 per year. You are also required to pay the sales tax and the title fee. You may be charged a local vehicle registration (LVR) fee, if so, please bring the receipt to a representative in the Legal Assistance Section to request a refund from city officials or if you receive a bill for this fee, please bring the bill to Legal who will provide an exemption letter. Virginia "DMV Fees" can be accessed at: http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv201.pdf.
The DMV clerk/car dealer charged sales tax on the purchase price of the vehicle. What is sales tax? Sales tax is a State (e.g. Virginia) or local tax charged on an item purchased at point of sale, and is ordinarily a percentage of the purchase price.
Am I exempt from sales tax? NO, NATO and PfP personnel are not exempt from taxes related to fiscal purchases. Reference Article IX, Paragraph 8, NATO Status of Forces Agreement: Neither a force, nor a civilian component, nor the members thereof, nor their dependents, shall by reason of this Article enjoy any exemption from taxes or duties relating to purchases and services chargeable under the fiscal regulations of the receiving State.
The DMV clerk charged tax on the value of the vehicle I imported when I registered the vehicle. Is this legal? YES, unless you can provide proof that you have paid "sales tax" when you purchased the vehicle in another country or US state, at the equivalent or greater rate of Virginia's 3% vehicle sales tax.
What is 'use' tax? Use tax is a tax charged on certain tangible (i.e. touchable) property when the owner is unable to prove that he/she paid sales tax at point of sale. Use tax is ordinarily charged at the same percentage as sales tax, based on the value of the item. The primary purpose of use tax is to prevent tax avoidance. In Virginia, DMV clerks ordinarily only request this tax when registering a vehicle which has been permanently registered in your name for less than one year, and, you are unable to provide proof of payment of sales tax.
Am I exempt from 'use tax'? As indicated in Paragraph 6, Article XI, NATO SOFA, and PfP SOFA by incorporation, although [m]embers of a force or civilian component may import temporarily free of duty their private motor vehicles for the personal use of themselves and their dependents, [t]here is no obligation under this Article to grant exemption from taxes payable in respect of the use of roads by private vehicles.
The DMV clerk/car dealer charged 'use' tax on my imported vehicle. Why? If you are not charged sales tax, Virginia DMV officials will collect "use tax" (of 3% of the vehicle's value) upon registration of an imported vehicle.
Certificate of Title:
What is a Certificate of Title? A Certificate of Title is a document that serves as proof of ownership, and is the legal document by which an owner transfers ownership to another person. Note: This document should never be kept in your vehicle!
If I have a loan for the vehicle, does DMV send the Certificate of Title to my bank? Maybe. The certificate of title will either be held by the financial institution if you have loan or kept electronically in DMV's database.
DMV did not give me a Certificate of Title when I registered my imported vehicle. Is this correct? YES. Although Virginia DMV permits registration (issuance of license plates and registration card) of imported vehicles, it will not issue certificates of titles for vehicles that do not meet Federal standards—this is to prevent the vehicle from being sold in the United States. If a certificate of title is mistakenly issued for your vehicle which does not comply with US specifications/standards, it should be annotated as "grey market", which prevents the vehicle from being sold. If you have been improperly issued a Virginia certificate of title for a non-compliant vehicle by Virginia DMV authorities, the vehicle CANNOT be legally sold as you will have agreed to export it at the end of the tour of duty (reference form DOT HS-7).
DMV Office Locations:
Where is the local DMV office? There are several local DMV offices in the Hampton Roads area, and you can locate the office closest to your home by accessing http://www.dmv.state.va.us/exec/csc/district.asp?district=6. Please note that although some transactions can be handled at the "DMV Select Locations" indicated in the right-hand column at this link, most initial transactions by international personnel and dependents MUST be conducted at DMV Customer Service Centers.
Where is the closest DMV Customer Service Center to the HQ? The closest DMV Customer Service Center at 850 S. Widgeon Road, Norfolk, is located within a few minutes' drive of the Headquarters, and the staff are very familiar with NATO and PfP personnel. Simply travel on I-64 east towards Virginia Beach to the Tidewater Drive Exit (277A), turn left at the first traffic light (Widgeon Road) and DMV is located approximately two blocks on your left.
Will I be able to drive my vehicle the same day I register it? YES. You will receive the license plates—which must be displayed on both the front and rear of the vehicle—prior to its operation. If the vehicle is manufactured (or modified and certified to be) in accordance with US Federal motor vehicle safety and emission standards, you will also receive a Certificate of Title for your vehicle if you do not have a lien (i.e., a loan) on the vehicle. The Certificate of Title should be kept in a secure file, and NOT in the vehicle as it is evidence/proof of ownership.
Where can I obtain additional information? DMV has a web page entitled "New to Virginia" which contains a myriad of information regarding relocating to Virginia: http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/moving/newva.asp, or contact a representative in the Legal Assistance Section for guidance specific to international military personnel and dependents relocating to the region.
Also consult DMV booklets -- DMV140, "Welcome to Virginia" http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv140.pdf; and VSA86 How to Title & License a Motor Vehicle http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/vsa86.pdf.
Who can I contact for help with documentation requirements and other information related to registering my vehicle? Office of the Legal Advisor!
I have family/friends visiting. Are they permitted to drive my vehicle that is insured in Virginia? It is recommended that you consult your insurance company to ensure that they will be covered while operating your vehicle (see section entitled Vehicle Insurance).
My vehicle does not have the correct holes to mount the front and rear license plates. Is it required? YES. Both the front and rear license plates must be mounted/displayed. Conversion mounting kits are available at local auto supply stores, or from car dealers.
PERSONAL PROPERTY TAXES
What is personal property tax? Personal property tax is an annual ad-valorem tax charged on your tangible moveable property (cars, motorcycles, boats, most trailers, and similar items) by the city where you live.
Am I exempt from personal property taxes? YES. In accordance with Article X of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and the PfP SOFA by incorporation, you are exempt from personal property taxes (and local vehicle registration fees). This exemption however does not apply to your dependents.
Why am I exempt from personal property taxes, but not sales tax? The NATO SOFA, and PfP SOFA by incorporation, do not exempt personnel from sales tax. Reference: Article IX, Paragraph 8, NATO Status of Forces Agreement: Neither a force, nor a civilian component, nor the members thereof, nor their dependents, shall by reason of this Article enjoy any exemption from taxes or duties relating to purchases and services chargeable under the fiscal regulations of the receiving State.
What do I do if I receive a personal property tax bill? Do NOT ignore it! Provided that the personal property tax bill is solely in the name of an exempt member (i.e., NATO/PfP personnel), you are exempt; however, the exemption must be certified with local city officials. Contact a representative in the Legal Assistance Section who can either (1) coordinate your exemption directly with Norfolk or Virginia Beach (if that is where you live) or (2) for all other cities will provide an exemption for you to return to the relevant authorities. Please note, if you jointly own property and the joint owner is not exempt, the total amount of the tax will be due (the cities will NOT pro-rate the tax).
Leased vehicles are often registered in the staff members name and the leasing company – there is no exemption in this case and the total amount of the tax must be paid in accordance with the lease contract—normally by the driver of the vehicles.
LOCAL VEHICLE (CITY) REGISTRATION FEE
Are there any other fees in connection with registering my vehicle with the city in which I am living? YES. Many local city and county jurisdictions also have a local vehicle registration (LVR) fee/requirement.
What is an LVR fee? The Local Vehicle Registration (LVR) is a fee charged by local cities to its residents. (See the following questions for additional information.)
How much is the LVR fee? The fee varies slightly by jurisdiction, but in the local area it is $25-30 (per year) depending upon the gross weight of the vehicle.
Am I exempt from the LVR fee? YES, if the vehicle is licensed solely in the staff member's name. The basis for this exemption extends from the staff member's exemption from personal property taxes, and is pursuant to the NATO SOFA, and PfP SOFA by incorporation, as addressed earlier in this section.
Do I receive proof of my exemption from this local vehicle registration? Most local jurisdictions no longer provide proof (i.e., a decal to be placed on your vehicle).
I'm a Virginia Beach resident, what do I need to do? No action necessary, and no requirement to display a decal on your vehicle. Your local vehicle (city) registration is done by DMV at the time of (Virginia State) registration in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement between Virginia Beach and Virginia DMV. You will, however, be charged the LVR fee by DMV officials when you register your vehicle, even though you are exempt.
I'm a resident of a city other than Virginia Beach. What do I need to do? No action necessary as there is no requirement to display a city decal in most local cities. The LVR fee, however, will be included on the annual invoice for personal property taxes—which you should bring to the Legal Assistance Section upon receipt.
Do I have to have a decal on my vehicle if it is not registered in Virginia? NO. Decals are not required for vehicles that are not registered in Virginia.
I purchased a vehicle which has a city registration decal on it. Is it valid? NO. City registration decals do not transfer with the ownership of a vehicle; therefore, if the city where you reside requires a decal to be displayed, you should remove the current decal and contact local city officials.
If I paid LVR upon registration, how can I get a refund? Bring a copy of the DMV receipt to the Legal Assistance Section and we will request a refund provided that the vehicle is licensed solely in the exempt member's name. If the vehicle dealership (where you purchased the vehicle) registers the vehicle you may receive an invoice for the LVR fee, please bring that invoice to the Legal Assistance Section and they will coordinate exemption with City officials.
Who can help me with LVR fees? Please contact a representative in Legal Assistance Section at +1 757 747 3228/3640 for assistance.
What are the basic types of insurance relating to vehicles registered in Virginia? Each US state has its own laws and regulations regarding insurance (e.g., what types of insurance are available, whether the type of insurance is mandatory (i.e., required by Virginia law) or optional (i.e., not required by Virginia law), minimum limits if applicable, etc.). Detailed information follows:
Liability—Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability Insurance is mandatory insurance coverage that pays claims on your behalf and also on behalf of drivers of your car (driving with your permission) who cause injury, death or property damage to others. This coverage extends to family members living with you, and others driving your car with your permission. It also pays for your legal costs should you require legal defense resulting from an accident. This coverage does not pay for damage to your property—including your vehicle. Bodily injury liability and property damage liability insurance is often combined, but can be purchased as separate coverage, thus you can elect different limits of liability. Ask you insurance professional for a detailed explanation.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists coverage is mandatory insurance which pays for claims resulting from injuries or property damage to you or your family members and guests in your vehicle, if the driver of your vehicle is not at fault and the other driver (who caused the accident) is uninsured or underinsured. If you or the driver of your vehicle is at fault for an accident, uninsured motorists coverage does not provide any coverage or protection.
Collision coverage is optional insurance you can purchase to repair or replace your vehicle in the event of damage, when that damage is not paid by another's insurance company. If you have borrowed money from a financial institution to purchase a vehicle, that lender will require you to purchase collision insurance to protect their interest in the vehicle.
Comprehensive coverage is optional insurance that you can purchase which will pay for repairs to your vehicle if it is damaged, but not involved in a collision with another vehicle. Examples include damage to the windshield from a rock on the road, storm damage to your car while it is parked, if it is stolen or vandalized. If you have borrowed money from a financial institution, your lender will require this coverage to protect its interest in the vehicle.
The Virginia Auto Insurance Consumer's Guide is an informative publication that staff members should read to understand insurance requirements in Virginia. As indicated in this consumer guide, "[y]ou should have insurance in effect/force on the day you first drive the auto as your own". This publication is available on the Virginia Bureau of Insurance's web site located at http://www.scc.virginia.gov.
When should I have automobile insurance in place? PRIOR TO OPERATING YOUR MOTOR VEHICLE!
Where should I purchase automobile insurance? Virginia Law requires that upon purchase of a vehicle you must obtain automobile insurance—vehicles are not "sold" with insurance even during the period of temporary registration. In order for you (or the dealership from which you purchased your vehicle) to register your vehicle with Virginia DMV, you must certify that the vehicle is covered by the minimum liability insurance. There are many insurance companies licensed to do business in the Commonwealth of Virginia. You will want to request rate quotes from several companies licensed to do business in Virginia to ensure you are receiving a fair rate for the insurance. Check with other staff members about the company that provides their insurance.
Should I bring any documents from my prior insurance company? YES. Many insurance companies request a copy of your "driving history" and a letter from your previous insurance carrier that documents your claim history ("claim-free letter"). Most companies require that the driving or claim history be dated within 90 days of the date you secure your insurance policy. This is especially important for international enlisted personnel and junior officers who usually have greater difficulty in finding insurance at a reasonable price.
Will I get a discount if I have good driving history? YES, likely. Some companies will offer discounts based upon the number of years you have been "accident free". Ensure that you have provided all information requested on the insurance application along with a "claim-free letter" from your home country. Failing to disclose or withholding information may result in the voiding of your policy, denial of coverage, or refusal to pay a claim.
Virginia Insurance Requirements:
What are the insurance requirements in Virginia? In order to register your vehicle with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you must certify that the vehicle is covered by Virginia minimum liability insurance requirements: Bodily injury/death of one person--$25,000; Bodily injury/death of two or more persons--$50,000; and Property damage--$20,000.
What are the suggested limits as these Virginia minimum requirements seem quite low? You may, of course, elect to have coverage in excess of these minimum requirements. In fact, the limits as required by Virginia law (question above) are considered inadequate by most individuals. It is strongly suggested that you research this issue—thoroughly—and consider electing coverage well in excess of these minimum requirements under Virginia law.
How does DMV know if I have insurance on my vehicles? Firstly, you must certify the existence of an automobile insurance policy—at least containing liability—upon registration of the vehicle. Also, DMV verifies that all vehicles are properly insured through the motor vehicle liability insurance reporting program. All insurance companies licensed in Virginia are required to report any changes to loss of your driver's license, suspension of vehicle registrations and fines in excess of $500. In addition if you have no insurance, DMV will require you to pay the "uninsured motor vehicle fee", which costs substantially more than insurance purchased personally.
Can my insurance company require a social security number? Some insurance companies will not issue insurance policies prior to the issuance of your social security number (SSN). There are companies that will issue the policy prior to the issuance of your SSN, but may require proof of your SSN upon receipt.
Do I have to also show my passport or provide copies of the passport? YES, they will likely request to see your passport, or to send copies of the biographic page, your NATO or "A" visa and your Form I-94.
Do I have to show my valid national or international driver's license? YES, they will likely request to see your valid license.
I changed insurance carriers. Will they inform DMV of my new policy so I don't receive a fine? YES. You only need to respond if you receive a letter from DMV asking you to confirm your insurance policy and limits of coverage. You should then comply with DMV's request by submitting that information but should also contact your insurance company and ask them to certify your policy with DMV (they will likely ask you to fax a copy of DMV's letter or notice to them).
What if I don't respond to DMV's letter? Failure to respond to DMV's request for insurance certification will result in the suspension of your driver's license and your vehicles' registrations.
Insurance and Virginia Driver' s License:
I obtained an automobile insurance policy, and I just received a letter requiring me and my spouse to obtain a Virginia driver's license within 30 days. Can the insurance company do that? YES. Some insurance companies require that you obtain a Virginia driving license within a certain timeframe, for example, within 30 days of the start of the policy—the customer service representative who arranged your insurance may not clearly understand your situation, or be unaware of the company's policy regarding the Virginia driver's license requirement.
What if I don't obtain the driver's license within the required period? Failure to comply with the insurance company's requirements will result in cancellation of your policy. If you are simply unable to obtain the driver's license within a short-time period, contact them and request a 30-day extension.
How can I prevent this situation? Before purchasing your automobile insurance, ensure that the insurance company representative clearly understands your status, and that you intend to drive on your national or international license as these are different licenses and will likely mean different rates of insurance.
Vehicle Insurance and Travel:
My family and I plan to travel, is my automobile insurance valid throughout the United States? Check with your insurance company but most automobile insurance policies are valid when driving throughout the United States.
Are we insured if we drive our vehicle into Canada? Some insurance companies will insure you if you drive your vehicle into Canada—but you should contact your insurance representative in advance of your planned travel to ensure you are insured. If they do not extend coverage on your policy, you may inquire if you can purchase a supplemental policy for short-term travel to Canada.
Are we insured if we drive our vehicle into Mexico? Most US automobile insurance policies are NOT valid in Mexico, including liability insurance, and collision and comprehensive coverage. If you plan to drive into the country of Mexico, please contact your insurance provider and check your coverage. In the event you are involved in an accident and do not have insurance coverage in Mexico, you could be detained until all financial responsibilities are resolved.
We plan to fly to another state and rent a car. Does our insurance policy cover us? Likely YES, but you should contact your insurance company to ensure you have coverage. You may also have some other coverage under a credit card—but you should ensure such coverage, and don't simply assume it exists.
Other Vehicle Types and Insurance:
I plan to rent a motorcycle. Does my insurance policy cover me? NO, not likely, unless you currently own a motorcycle, which is included on your current policy and are licensed to operate a motorcycle. Contact your insurance company to inquire, ensure coverage, or to purchase a temporary policy. Additional information can be found in the later section entitled "Motorcycles".
We plan to rent a recreational vehicle/motor home to travel throughout the United States. Does our insurance policy cover us? NO, not likely. Contact your insurance company to ensure coverage, or to purchase a temporary policy.
Where can I find additional information? You should discuss various coverage levels with your insurance agent depending upon your individual circumstances. Once you purchase insurance, ensure that the policy that you receive conforms to the insurance coverage and amounts that you requested. The Virginia Auto Insurance Consumers' Guide is an excellent resource and is available on the Virginia (State Corporation Commission) Bureau of Insurance web site located at: http://scc.virginia.gov/boi/pubs.aspx.
What do I do if I, or my family member, is involved in a traffic accident? Virginia law requires that you stop at the scene of any accident in which you are involved. If you are involved in a traffic accident where an individual is injured, emergency services should be contacted immediate dialling 911. In fact, it is always advisable to call the police to report the accident. It is also recommended that you contact your insurance company to report the accident shortly after it occurs to ensure you file a timely claim. Annex D-6 of this Guide contains general information regarding handling an Automobile Accident Claim should you unfortunately be involved in a traffic accident.
How can I be prepared in the event of an accident? Your insurance company will likely provide a form to you. If not, at Annex D-5 of this Guide is an "Auto Accident Loss Report" that can be used, or adapted for your use in recording this information in the event the Police are not at the scene. It is recommended that you keep a copy of this form in your vehicle at all times. This will assist you in obtaining the information that you will need to provide to the insurance company.
Are the Police required to come to the scene of the accident if I call? NO, unless there are injuries. In most instances, however, the Police will come to the scene of the accident, especially if property damage exceeds $1,000, and if so they will complete an information exchange form. It is always advisable to call the police. If they come to the scene of the accident, they will complete an information exchange form containing the information of the driver involved, vehicle's owner (if different), insurance information, etc. and provide a copy to the parties involved.
If I call the police but they do not come to the scene of the accident, what should I do? You should exchange information with the other driver by recording as much information as possible from the following sources: (1) proof of insurance card (which includes name of insurance company/policy holder's name/policy number/expiration date); (2) driver's license (name/customer number/home address); and (3) vehicle registration (name and address of owner/vehicle identification number/year, make and model of vehicle, license plate number and state of issuance of license plate). Take photographs if possible but do not move the cars until the police arrive at the scene. You may have to complete an accident report form (obtained from the police officer).
What should I do if I am stopped by the police? If you see flashing lights on a police car following you, stop the car on the side of the road as soon as it is safe. DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR. Wait for the police officer to come to your car. Then lower your window. The police officer will ask to see your driving license and your vehicle registration. You must have these with you. Let the officer tell you why you were stopped. Cooperate and be courteous. Should you receive a ticket, do not offer to pay cash there and then, this may be seen as a bribe to the police officer. Pay all fines on line, by mail or directly to the clerk of the court or attend your court date if appropriate.
Once an officer has stopped your car, he/she can look at anything in the car that is in plain view but he can also search the car. It is always advised that you cooperate with the officer (see section entitled What To Do If You Are Stopped or Arrested by Law Enforcement).
Where can I find additional information? From your insurance company, or at Annex D-4 of this Guide, "What to do at the Scene of an Accident" (which presumes your review prior to an accident).
ACCESS TO LOCAL MILITARY INSTALLATIONS—VEHICLE BASE DECAL**
**Please note that the requirement for vehicle base decals to access military installations in the
Mid-Atlantic Region (where HQ SACT is located) is currently under review by US Navy officials.
At the time of publication, the base decal remains a requirement in the local area.
Am I permitted to drive my personal vehicle onto the military base on which NATO HQ SACT is located? YES, however you must have permanent US Department of Defense (DOD) decals, or a (temporary) day or monthly pass. If it is your first visit to the HQ, your sponsor or NLR/PNLR office representative will be required to escort you on base or have made arrangements for your access through the ACT Office of Security.
Where do I obtain the DOD decal? The Base Pass and Identification Office is located at 9040 Hampton Boulevard (corner of Hampton Boulevard and B Street—opposite entrance to the US Naval Submarine piers, Gate 5). The hours of operation are 0600 to 2100 daily; the telephone number is +1 757 322 2979. It is recommended that you request your sponsor to assist you in this process.
What documentation is required to obtain the decal? In order to receive a permanent base decal, you will be required to present: (1) the vehicle's DMV registration (temporary registrations are not acceptable for the decals); (2) proof of automobile insurance; (3) proof of Virginia state safety inspection (additional information can be found in the earlier section entitled "Vehicle Safety Inspection") with "Virginia State Police" written at the top; (4) US Government Identification card (military and civilian staff receive an identification card issued by US government authorities— respective HQ Personnel Offices will provide information and the application in order to receive the identification card); and (5) a valid driver's license. Upon receipt of the vehicle pass, officials will provide instructions as to the proper placement of the decal on the vehicle's windshield.
Do I have to appear in person to receive the DOD decal? YES, you must appear in person for your first DOD decal. They will likely request your social security number (SSN). If you do not yet have an SSN, provide your passport and they will record the information and make copies if required.
What is the procedure to obtain new decals once the current decals expire? You can renew your decal by applying in advance online at: https://www.pid.cnic.navy.mil/. Once you have "accepted" the terms of the website, you will use the drop down menu to select "Commander, Navy Region Mid- Atlantic", and complete the information requested. Processing takes 2-4 weeks, so please plan accordingly.
I have not received my permanent registration. How can I access the base with temporary registration? With respect to the base where NATO HQ SACT is located, if your vehicle has a temporary registration, if you are driving a rental vehicle, or if it's your first visit to HQ SACT, you can obtain a 'daily pass' at the main gate (off Terminal Boulevard, turning right onto 'Meredith'). Proceed towards the gate and enter the right-most lane (which is open and which will be indicated by a green light). This presumes that you have your identification card issued by the US Department of Defense (US DOD ID). If you do not have your US DOD ID card, you will require an escort.
DRIVING IN VIRGINIA
Virginia Driver's License (VDL):
Do I need to apply for a Virginia driver's license? You can if you like, but there is no legal requirement to do so. Pursuant to the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Regarding the Status of their Forces (NATO SOFA) (TIAS 2846), Article IV, a principal/sponsor serving as a 'member of the force' is permitted to drive on a national driver's license as long as it is valid.
Pursuant to Virginia law (VA Code §46.2-307, "Nonresidents licensed under the laws of their home state or country") NATO/PfP personnel and dependents are not required to obtain Virginia driver's licenses as long as they possess a valid driver's licence from their home country. A representative in the Legal Assistance Section can provide an official letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Driver Services Administration, Deputy Director which references the Virginia law that confirms your right to drive using your valid national driver's licenses.
If I am not required to have a Virginia driver's license, why would I obtain one? Many staff members and dependents choose to obtain Virginia driver's licenses for identification and insurance purposes. The issuing authority is the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (http://www.dmv.state.va.us).
VDL Application Requirements:
How do I obtain a Virginia driver's license? You will have to visit a local DMV Customer Service Center, present documentation in accordance with the strict guidelines for proof of identity, legal presence and Virginia residency (as referenced on DMV Form 141, "Obtaining a Virginia Driver's License or Identification (ID) Card" (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv141.pdf), and complete DMV Form DL 1P, "Driver's License and Identification Card Application" (http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/dl1p.pdf), provided at the time of visit with instructions on which sections of this form to complete. You will also be required to take a two-part written and behind- the-wheel exam at the time of application.
How can I prepare for the exams? You should study the Virginia Drivers Manual which is available at local DMV Customer Service Centers, or at http://www.dmv.state.va.us/drivers/#manual.asp.
My colleague received a Virginia driver's license without taking a test? Canadian, German or French citizens who hold valid driver's licenses from their respective nations are exempt from the testing requirements based on reciprocal driving arrangements those nations have with the Commonwealth of Virginia. Holders of a Canadian, French or German driver's license that are of a different nationality (from the driver's license they hold) may be afforded those privileges under those agreements.
How do I apply for a Virginia driver's license based on the reciprocal licensing arrangement (applicable to Canadian, French and German personnel)? You are required to comply with the application and documentation requirements (listed above), complete DMV Form DL 7, "Exchanging a Driver's License from a Foreign Country" (http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/dl7.pdf), and present your original valid national driver's license. As of the date of this Guide, national procedures are as follows:
Canadians: Canadian driver's licenses can ordinarily be verified electronically at the time of application for the Virginia driver's license. Presuming this occurs and you have met DMV's documentation requirements, your application will be processed that same day, thus requiring only one visit to DMV. You will receive your VDL in the mail (post) in approximately one to two weeks following the date of application.
French: Your application for a Virginia driver's license will require two visits to a local DMV Customer Service Center. During the first visit you will provide the documentation requested by DMV authorities (e.g., current valid national driver's licence, Form DL 7, etc.) which will be forwarded to DMV Headquarters in Richmond. DMV officials will verify the validity of the national driver's licence with French authorities, and forward a confirmation letter to you (this process ordinarily takes three to four weeks). Upon receipt of DMV's letter, you are then required to return to the local DMV Customer Service Center (within the time indicated on the letter (e.g., 30 days)) to complete the application process for the Virginia driver's license (VDL). You will receive your VDL in the mail (post) in approximately one to two weeks following your second visit to DMV.
Germans: Representatives of the National Liaison Representative's office will forward copies of the applicant's German driver's license (front and back) and DMV Form DL 7 to Virginia DMV Headquarters. DMV officials verify the validity of the national driver's licence with German authorities, and forward a confirmation letter to the applicant. The applicant is then required to visit the local DMV Customer Service Center to apply for the Virginia driver's license (VDL). The VDL will be received in the mail (post) in approximately one to two weeks following the date of application.
I received my Virginia driver's license (without test in accordance with the reciprocal agreement mentioned above), but it doesn't contain a motorcycle endorsement? The reciprocal licensing arrangements apply only to the operation of a passenger vehicle and do not include motorcycle licenses or endorsements. Individuals who wish to obtain the motorcycle endorsement on their Virginia license must follow DMV's testing requirements. (See the section entitled "Motorcycles" for more information regarding the operation of motorcycles.)
If I don't have to take the test (in accordance with the reciprocal agreement mentioned above), why do I have to pay the fee? All applicants are required to pay a nominal licensing fee; there is no exemption from this fee since you are not required by Virginia law to obtain a Virginia driver's license. Although a Virginia driver's license is not required by the DMV, many insurance companies require one (within a specific timeframe) in order to purchase an automobile insurance policy.
At what age can my son/daughter obtain a Virginia driver's license? At the age of 15 years and 6 months, a child can apply for a Virginia driver's permit provided that certain criteria are met. Consult the DMV web site for additional information regarding driving privileges for teenagers at http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/citizen/drivers/teen_laws.asp.
NOTE: Any use of mobile telephones by drivers under the age of 18 years (telephone calls, SMS (text messaging), emailing, etc.) is prohibited, except in the case of driver emergency or when the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped (and not within the lane of traffic).
Where can I find additional information regarding Virginia's requirements? The Driver Services page on DMV's website contains the Virginia Drivers Manual, sample exams, and various other sources of information regarding obtaining a Virginia driver's license (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/drivers/#manual.asp). It is highly recommended that you visit the Legal Assistance Section for additional information upon arrival.
My insurance company has requested a copy of my Virginia driver's license. I thought Virginia law allowed me to drive on my national driver's licence? Many insurance companies require a Virginia driver's license to be obtained within a certain timeframe (e.g., 30-60 days from the date of the start of the policy)—as a matter of business practice/policy. VA does allow you to drive on your valid national license, however, there are only two insurance companies licensed to do business in Virginia that permit policyholders to drive on their valid national license. Additional information can be found in the later section entitled "Vehicle Insurance". You can also contact your sponsor, NLR/PNLR office, or a Legal Assistance Section representative for additional information.
As mentioned above, Legal Assistance representatives can provide an official letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Driver Services Administration, Deputy Director, confirming your eligibility to drive on your valid national license pursuant to VA Code §46.2-307.
Where do I find additional information? Additional information can be found in the next section entitled "Vehicle Insurance" or contact the Legal Assistance Section upon arrival for detailed information.
General Driving (in Virginia) Information:
What do I need to know about driving in Virginia? Traffic laws and speed limits vary among US States. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the highest posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour (mph) (approximately 105 kilometers per hour, km/h), which is found only on certain stretches of highways (major roadways). The speed limit on the majority of highways in Virginia is 55 mph (~ 86 km/h). The permitted speed in residential areas, unless otherwise indicated, is 25 mph (~40 km/h).
Where can I find additional information regarding Virginia's driving requirements and rules of the road? DMV's Driver Services page (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/drivers/#manual.asp) contains the Virginia Drivers Manual, sample exams, and various other sources of information regarding rules of the road.
Speeding and Reckless Driving:
I understand that I can drive a certain amount over the posted speed limit and I won't be stopped by a law enforcement officer. Is this accurate? NO. There is a common assumption that you can exceed the speed limit by a certain amount without risking a traffic citation—this is bad advice as you can be cited for speeding when travelling only a few miles per hour over the posted limit. You can also be cited for driving too fast for weather or traffic conditions even when travelling under the posted speed limit if the police officer considers your speed dangerous for the condition.
What is considered reckless driving/speeding in Virginia? Reckless driving citations can be issued for a variety of infractions; however, the majority of instances when HQ SACT personnel have been cited for reckless driving is due to 'speeding'. An individual can be cited, and subsequently found guilty, under Virginia law (VA Code 46.2-862) for reckless driving when driving: (i) 20 mph or more over the speed limit when the speed limit is 30 mph or less; (ii) 60 mph or more when the speed limit is 35 mph; (iii) 20 mph or more over the speed limit when the speed limit is 49 mph or more; or (iv) 80 mph or more regardless of the speed limit.
Are reckless driving citations common? Regrettably, we have seen an increase in the number of 'reckless driving' citations (or tickets) that have been received by HQ personnel over the past few years.
I understand my colleague had to go to a Virginia traffic court recently. Do all traffic citations/violations require a court appearance? NO. Some traffic citations can be paid in advance so you can avoid going to court. However, certain citations, including reckless driving, require a mandatory court appearance.
How will I know if I have to go to court? It should be indicated on the 'traffic summons' you will have received from the law enforcement officer. If in doubt, or for assistance, bring the summons to the Legal Assistance Section.
Do I need a lawyer? This is a personal decision. A lawyer is not required to represent you; however, you may wish to hire, at personal expense, private legal counsel to represent you in court. Representation fees can vary from $350 to $750 for a court appearance. A representative in the Office of the Legal Advisor cannot represent you in court.
What is the possible penalty for reckless driving? A guilty verdict for reckless driving will result in a substantial fine, not to mention a likely significant increase (2 to 3 times) in your insurance premium.
In addition, a reckless driving conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which may result in revocation or suspension of your driver's license, a fine up to $2,500 and time in jail.
Safety and Emergency Laws/Information:
What are Virginia laws with respect to Police, Fire, Ambulance and other Emergency Vehicles? Virginia law requires that drivers remove their vehicles from the lane of traffic as quickly as traffic and other highway conditions permit when an emergency vehicle (with its lights and/or sirens on) is approaching. Drive to the nearest edge of the road or highway, remain clear of any intersections and stop, and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed—unless instructed otherwise by a police officer.
What are Virginia seat belt and child safety seat (or restraint) devices? Generally, seat belt usage is required by all drivers, as well as passengers occupying the front seat of a vehicle in the United States.
Child restraint devices are required when operating a vehicle with certain child passengers. In Virginia, children under the age of 8 years of age are required to be restrained in an approved restraint device (i.e., a 'car seat' or 'booster seat'). Infants (from birth to 1 year of age) must be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle. In addition to the common national restriction, current Virginia law requires that all children under the age of 16 years of age wear a seat belt at all times during the operation of a vehicle regardless of location in the vehicle.
Where can I find additional information? General information is available at the websites of the Virginia Department of Health (http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/ofhs/prevention/CPS/index.htm) and the US Department of Transportation (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov).
Use of Mobile Phone while Driving in Virginia:
Is it legal to drive in the United States while using your mobile telephone/personal communication device? The laws vary by each individual US State.
In Virginia, currently drivers 18 years of age or older are legally permitted to converse on their mobile telephones while driving without using a hands-free device. Virginia law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using their mobile telephones while driving for any purpose-even when using a hands-free device.
Under Virginia law, it is unlawful to draft, read or send email or text messages (SMS) from mobile communication devices—mobile telephone, personal digital assistant (PDA) or any other type of personal communication device:
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using a handheld personal communications device [m]anually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or [r]ead any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device (Reference VA Code 46.2-1078.1).
What is the definition of "highway" under Virginia law? The definition of highway under Virginia law essentially includes any road on which you will likely be driving. It includes secondary roads, streets and alleys:
Highway means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel in the Commonwealth [of Virginia], including the streets and alleys, and, for law-enforcement purposes, (i) the entire width between the boundary lines of all private roads or private streets that have been specifically designated "highways" by an ordinance adopted by the governing body of the county, city, or town in which such private roads or streets are located and (ii) the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place used for purposes of vehicular travel on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the United States government and located in the Commonwealth [of Virginia]. (VA Code 46.2-100).
Please note that ANY use of mobile telephones, PDA or other personal communication devices while driving on US military installations or property is prohibited. Additional information can be found in this Guide in the earlier section entitled "Driving on US Military Installations".
Driving on a US Military Installation:
Did you know that the US flag is raised and the US national anthem played every morning at 0800 and every evening at 1800 on the Naval Support Activity (base)? As a sign of respect to the host nation, the United States, if you are driving or walking on base and hear the trumpet or national anthem, please bring the vehicle to a complete stop and if you are walking please face the music and stand still (saluting if you are in uniform) until you hear the music stop and the trumpet blown.
Am I permitted to take photographs on a US military installation? NO. You are not permitted to take photographs or video on a US military installation unless you receive permission from base security, or unless permission is granted due to a special event.
Are the driving laws the same on US military installations as they are on Virginia highways? NO. US military installations are Federal Government property; therefore the regulations thereon may, and in many instances do, exceed the laws of the state in which the base is located, especially with respect to 'moving' or traffic violations.
Are the laws different on different military installations? In accordance with COMNAVREG MIDLANT INST 5560.10, (the Command Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Instruction which governs the "Traffic Disposition of Violation on Post"), regional military installations have a uniform policy with respect to traffic violations, including an administrative traffic court ("Base Traffic Court") where you can appear in the event you receive a traffic ticket (or citation) and wish to dispute it.
Please note that the Navy Exchanges and Commissaries which are not in gated/restricted access areas are still considered as part of the military installation; therefore, the same rules apply.
Does the US DOD base decal and ID card provided to international military personnel and dependents grant access to US military installations throughout the United States? NO. Those credentials are granted to you so that you and your family members can access the local installations for work, shopping and recreation purposes. This does not guarantee access to installations in other US States—contrary to popular belief!
How do I ensure I am following the driving laws on a military installation? Obey the signs and always stop for pedestrians! The most common violations on-base include parking violations, not coming to a full and complete stop at "Stop" signs, and driving too fast. Unless the speed limit is posted as less than 20 miles per hour (mph), do NOT exceed 20 mph on an installation.
Can I use my mobile telephone while driving on the military base? NO. The use of mobile telephones, including the use of wireless headsets, while driving on US military installations or property is prohibited. In addition, the use of headsets, earphones or other listening devices, not including hearing aids, are also prohibited while driving on US military installations or property.
What do I do if I receive a ticket/violation notice? The citation will contain information concerning the violation, the number of points (demerits) assigned to your Virginia Driver's license in accordance with the instruction previously referenced, contact information and instructions as to the disposition of the ticket. There is no monetary fine associated with on-base traffic tickets; however, perhaps more significant is that a driver can only accumulate 12 'points' within a 12-month period, or 18 points in a 24- month period, prior to losing their on-base driving privileges (if base driving privileges are revoked, it is ordinarily for a one-year period). Most offenses accumulate three demerit points for each violation.
Consumption of Alcohol/Driving Under the Influence:
What is the legal age to consume alcohol in Virginia? The legal age to consume any alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, liquor/spirits, etc.) in the Commonwealth of Virginia is 21 years of age. Regardless of age, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle (this includes cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and boats) if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This determination is made by testing your blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC).
What is BAC? Blood alcohol concentration or content (BAC) is the amount of alcohol present in the bloodstream, measured by a breath test or by a blood test. Detailed information regarding BAC is available from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control at http://www.abc.virginia.gov.
What is considered a motor vehicle for this purpose? A motorized method of transport includes a car, motorcycle, moped, watercraft (boat, jet ski, etc.), and similar motorized vehicles.
What is the legal limit of blood alcohol in Virginia if you are 21 years of age or older and operating a motor vehicle? If you are 21 years or older, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle if your BAC is .08% or more. If your BAC is less than .08%, it is unlawful to drive if you are "under the influence." This is determined by driving behavior and field sobriety tests.
What are Virginia laws if a child—under the age of 21 years—is driving and has consumed alcohol? Individuals under the age of 21 years are not permitted to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. If your child is under the age of 21 and operates a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol, they may be arrested for DUI if their BAC is .02% or more. Virginia's "zero tolerance law" makes driving under the influence of alcohol a serious criminal offence for drivers under the age of 21. Virginia DMV officials publish brochure "DMV 168" entitled "Virginia is Tough on drunk and drugged drivers", which can be found at: http://www.dmv.state.va.us ("Forms and Publications", "DMV 168").
How would a law enforcement officer determine I have been drinking? There are several ways for Virginia law enforcement authorities to determine if you are driving under the influence. If you are suspected of a DUI offense, the law enforcement officer may ask you to undergo "field sobriety tests," such as touching the tip of the nose with your forefinger, standing on one foot, or walking in a straight line heel-to-toe. The officer could also measure your breath or blood to determine your "blood alcohol concentration" (BAC).
How do they test your BAC? There are several ways in which the Commonwealth of Virginia will attempt to determine if you are driving under the influence of alcohol or other substance ("DUI" or "drunk driving"). If you are suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substance, law enforcement officers may ask you to undergo "field sobriety tests" such as touching the tip of the nose with your forefinger; standing on one foot; or walking in a straight line – heel-to-toe. Another way to determine if you are driving under the influence of alcohol is by measuring your breath or blood to determine your "blood alcohol concentration" (BAC).
Are breathalyzers the primary method used by law enforcement officers? YES, breathalyzers are the most common method and are usually administered at the "scene" to determine whether you are under the influence of alcohol to the point where you are considered legally drunk.
What if they determine that an individual is under the influence? If an individual is determined to be under the influence, he/she will be taken from the scene by law enforcement, and their vehicle will be towed unless another licensed driver can drive the vehicle.
What if an individual does not consent to a breathalyzer test? If an individual does not consent to the test(s) as requested by a law enforcement officer, he/she can lose their driver's license for up to one year.
Are they not required to do a formal test in Virginia? YES. Upon arrival at the police station, the individual will be administered another breath test of their BAC by a calibrated machine—kept under lock and key. A blood test can also be administered.
What is the penalty for an individual under the age of 21 and who had a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08% - the legal limit for adults 21 years of age or older? Virginia DMV officials publish brochure "DMV 168" entitled "Virginia is Tough on drunk and drugged drivers" and can be found at: http://www.dmv.state.va.us, under the heading "Forms and Publications", "DMV 168").
How many drinks can the average adult consume before their Blood Alcohol Content or Concentration (BAC) reaches .08%? It is impossible to estimate the number of drinks a particular individual must consume to reach .08% blood alcohol concentration. The rate that a body absorbs alcohol depends upon many factors - alcohol content of the drink, your gender and body weight, number of drinks consumed in a given period of time, whether or not you have eaten, type of (over-the- counter, prescription or illegal) drugs you may be taking, etc. Detailed information regarding BAC is available from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control at: http://www.abc.state.va.us.
What are the penalties for DUI? Virginia laws regarding DUI and penalties are published in Title 18.2 of the VA Code and are available on the Internet at: http://portal.virginia.gov.
These penalties under Virginia law will also be enforced on local military installations.
See section entitled "Driving on a US Military Installation" in this Guide for additional information and additional restrictions which are enforced on military installations if convicted of a DUI.
If arrested for DUI, should I hire a lawyer? YES, it is highly recommended and most individuals hire a private attorney to represent them when they are arrested for DUI. In addition to lawyer's fees (which can range from $1,500 to $3,000 on average for a first offence), court costs and fines, there are certainly other factors which should be considered prior to driving while impaired by alcohol, including a substantial increase in automobile insurance premiums or cancellation of your insurance, inconvenience if your license is suspended, effect on military career and embarrassment, to name but a few.
What is the best advice? DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.
Where can I find additional information? Virginia laws regarding DUI and penalties are published in Title 18.2 of the VA Code and are available on the Internet at: http://portal.virginia.gov ("Government", "Laws" "Code of Virginia").
Virginia DMV officials publish brochure "DMV 168" entitled "Virginia is Tough on drunk and drugged drivers" and can be found at: http://www.dmv.state.va.us, "Forms and Publications", "DMV 168".
Can I have an open beer on a street or in my vehicle? NO. It is illegal to possess or transport an open container of alcohol in the Commonwealth of Virginia. You are not permitted to drink any form of alcohol in public unless you are in a location where consumption of alcohol is expressly permitted. Possession of an open container of alcohol is not permitted on the street, sidewalk, beaches, etc. However, area military bases permit the consumption of alcohol such as beer, but do not ordinarily permit glass bottles. Check with the military facility prior to extending invitations!
Consumption of Alcohol/Driving Under the Influence on a US Military Installation:
Are the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) requirements on military installations the same as on Virginia Highways? YES. Base Police will arrest an individual under the following circumstances:
BAC of .08% is registered for alleged offender who is at least 21 years of age;
BAC of .02% is registered for alleged offender who is under 21 years of age; or
Alleged offender refuses to submit to the test.
Are the (military) base police permitted to conduct a test to measure the blood alcohol content (BAC)? YES. US Navy Instruction (COMNAVREGMIDLANTINST 5560.10, Policy for Disposition of Traffic Violations) allows base police to administer a Breathalyzer/blood test to an individual they have stopped for a possible DUI.
Will I still be permitted to drive on the military installation if I am convicted of DUI? NO, base driving privileges will be immediately suspended for one year if you are charged with DUI whether you were driving on base or on public highways. Base privileges will be reinstated if you are not convicted of the DUI.
If the alleged DUI offender is operating a vehicle which is not his own, and the owner of the vehicle is in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the owner of the vehicle may receive the same penalty as the driver. These administrative penalties are in addition to any legal action taken by the local court. A Federal court may handle the case of an individual arrested for a DUI on a military installation; otherwise, the individual will go to court in the city where the arrest took place.
What to do if Stopped or Arrested by Law Enforcement (anywhere):
Any suggestions if I am approached by a law enforcement officer? (1) If you are in your vehicle, turn on the interior lights prior to the officer approaching you, if possible; (2) Keep your hands visible (on the steering wheel of the vehicle), or in plain view if you are not in a vehicle—remove your hands from your pockets; (3) Follow the officer's instructions; (4) Speak in a clear and calm voice; do not become argumentative; and (5) Remain seated (if in the vehicle) or stay in place if you have been approached outside of a vehicle. If the officer requests that you provide documentation, move slowly to retrieve the items (either from within your vehicle or from your wallet or purse).
What if I am arrested and taken into physical custody by law enforcement? You should be given the opportunity to make one telephone call. In the absence of other options (such as a direct call to a family member, colleague or National representative), one possibility is to contact the HQ SACT Duty Officer at +1 747 544 6021 (anytime) or Security Centre at +1 757 747 3400/3408 (during normal operating hours) and request that they contact—through recall information—an individual within your chain of command, or colleague for whom you may not have immediate contact information. You should provide information as to where you are being held, so that you can be assisted for purposes of securing your release.
Can a representative from the Office of the Legal Advisor assist me in court? NO. Personnel in the Office of the Legal Advisor are not permitted to accompany or represent staff members or their family members in court, and therefore, in practical terms will not be of immediate assistance if you have been taken into custody by local authorities.
Use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes and Hybrid Vehicles:
Where can I learn about the rules for the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes/highways in Virginia? Consult the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) web page at: http://www.virginiadot.org//travel/hov-rulesfaq.asp.
I have a hybrid vehicle and understand that I am permitted to drive in the designated HOV lanes even if I am the only person in the car. Is this accurate? MAYBE. In the Hampton Roads region you are currently permitted to drive in the HOV lanes even if you are alone in the vehicle provided that you have a "clean special fuel plate" on your hybrid vehicle issued by Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles upon application. Consult DMV's website (http://www.dmv.state.va.us) for additional information. Please note that the local rules are different than in other areas of Virginia, particularly in Northern Virginia (Washington, DC area), so you should consult the VDOT link provided in the previous question.
OTHER FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION
How do I register my motorcycle? The process to register your motorcycle with Virginia DMV is the same as registering a passenger vehicle. Please refer to "Vehicle Registration/Titling".
Am I required to obtain a motorcycle driver's license in Virginia? If you wish to drive a motorcycle in the United States and have a Virginia driver's license, you must have a motorcycle endorsement on your Virginia driver's license. Most insurance companies will not insure your motorcycle unless you provide proof of the motorcycle endorsement on your Virginia driver's license. You must complete a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved rider or operator safety course in order to receive the endorsement to operate a motorcycle in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Please refer to the Virginia Motorcycle Operator Manual on Virginia DMV's web page (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv2.pdf), as well as "Virginia Driver's License" in an earlier section of this guide. This is a requirement no matter how many years of experience you have riding motorcycles.
Am I legally permitted to operate a motorcycle in Virginia when my valid national license allows me to operate a motorcycle in my home country? YES. You are permitted to drive your motorcycle using your valid national license, as long as your national license permits you to do so in your home country.
Can I use my national licence for operating my motorcycle on Virginia roadways, if I have a Virginia driver's license without a motorcycle endorsement? NO. DMV officials have advised that if you have obtained a Virginia driver's license you must obtain endorsements for any special vehicle (such as a motorcycle, commercial truck, etc.) that you intend to operate. If stopped by a law enforcement officer, prior to approaching you, he/she will have "run" your motorcycle's registration plate/tag through their database. They will then be aware if you have been issued a Virginia driver's license.
Are there additional/special requirements to drive the motorcycle on the military base? YES. If you wish to operate a motorcycle on a Department of Defense (DOD) military installation, you will be required to obtain a Virginia driver's license with the motorcycle endorsement.
How do I obtain the DOD base decal for my motorcycle? Prior to receiving a vehicle registration decal for your motorcycle for access onto a Department of Defense (DOD) military installation, all personnel must complete an approved rider or operator safety course as prescribed in the Department of Defense Instruction 6055.4 and OPNAVINST 5100.12H.
I understand that the military installation requires special equipment for motorcyclists. Is this accurate? Riders are not permitted onto the military installation unless they are wearing the personal protective equipment as set forth in the regulations including a US Department of Transportation approved helmet, long pants, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, full-finger leather gloves, hard soled shoes with heels that protect the ankle, protective eyewear, and reflective vest. (US military personnel are required to wear protective equipment at all times while operating a motorcycle.)
Where can I find additional information? The HQ has a Motorcycle Safety Officer (please contact Military Personnel representatives for the name and extension number). For additional information on obtaining a motorcycle license or the requirements of operating a motorcycle on DOD installations please refer to the following websites: http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/citizen/drivers/motorcycle.asp or http://www.navymotorcyclerider.com or contact a representative in the Legal Assistance Section.
Boats and Watercraft:
Do boats require registration? YES, most personal watercraft and boats must be registered and display the Virginia Certificate of Number (registration).
The boat or watercraft should be registered only in the name of the staff member who is exempt from personal property taxes.
Does the boat trailer require registration? YES. You are required to register the boat trailer with Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (http://www.dmv.state.va.us). The trailer should be registered solely in the name of the staff member who is exempt from personal property taxes.
How old do you have to be to drive a boat or jet ski and are there any training requirements? Depending upon your age, there is a requirement for a boating safety course. Also, for larger vessels, captain licenses may be required.
All operators 35 and younger must complete a boating safety course.
Personal Watercraft (PWC) Age Restriction: No person under the age of 14 may operate a PWC. Those operators 14 and 15 MUST show proof of completing an approved and accepted boating safety course either in a classroom or online. The challenge exam or other provisions of the Education Compliance Requirement do not meet the requirements of the age restriction law.
This information is excerpted from the "Boating Education Requirements" page of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/education/requirement/).
Do canoes require registration? If you propel the canoe with any type of motor, including an electric motor, then you must register and title it if it is used on the public waters of Virginia. Otherwise, you are not required to register or title a canoe in Virginia.
Where can I find additional information? The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (http://www.dgif.state.va.us/boating/; http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/wog/) is the responsible agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia for fishing, boating, wildlife, hunting, and education related to
those activities. It is also an excellent resource for Virginia law requirements (such as life vests for the operator and each passenger) when boating, watercraft registration requirements and procedures, etc.
Another excellent resource for boaters is http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/content/va.
Do I need to wear a helmet? YES, if you are under the age of 15, you are required to wear a helmet when bicycling at all times. All individuals, irrespective of age, are required to wear a helmet when riding on a US military base.
Individuals over the age of 15 are not legally required to wear a helmet (when bicycling 'off-base') in the local area; however, as there is a not a strong cycling culture in Virginia, wearing a helmet for safety may reduce your risk of a head injury in case of an accident. It is also important to check with your medical insurance provider if you choose to ride your bicycle without a helmet, as some private insurance companies will not cover medical expenses incurred while doing so, since it is deemed to be an "extreme (or high-risk) activity".
Where can I ride my bicycle? It is legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia to bike on the roadway and also on designated bike paths and trails. Although some cities may permit riding your bike on the sidewalk, many municipalities (including Norfolk and Chesapeake), forbid cycling on the sidewalk once the rider is over the age of 15. Normally it is permissible to ride on the sidewalk if you are escorting a child under the age of 15. Please note that cycling on the sidewalk is permissible in some areas of Virginia Beach, but not on the boardwalk (other than in the bike path), and it is necessary—at all times when biking on the sidewalk—to yield the right of way to all pedestrians. Cycling on the roads in Virginia requires more planning and caution than cycling in many parts of Europe or Canada.
Riding on the road: Bicycles are considered to be "vehicles" in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This means that the laws governing traffic regulation apply equally to cyclists and motorists. Cyclists are required to follow and to understand all of the "rules of the road". They are also accorded the same rights as a motorist on the road. Violating Virginia laws (e.g., cycling/running a red light or exceeding the posted speed limit on your bicycle), can lead to the same penalties for a cyclist as would be charged to the driver of a car. These can include fines or receiving demerit points on your driver's license. Cyclists are expected to ride as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road, but they do have a legal right to take up an entire lane if necessary due to road conditions. Some of the major highways (such as the interstates) as forbidden to cyclists; these will be clearly marked.
Motorists (driving a motorized vehicle) are required to give cyclists a minimum of three (3) feet of passing room when overtaking. Be cautious when passing cars on a bike, since many will not expect you to do so. Signaling changes in speed or turns is very important.
The American bicycle signals (as seen from behind) are:
Riding in bike-designated areas: There are many local and Virginia State parks with designated trails (some lighted) for cycling which can be enjoyable for families. Virginia State Forests do require a "use permit" for anyone biking or riding horses in any of the Virginia's 19 State Forests. Additional information is available at: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/licenses/. Some of these parks have designated single-track for mountain biking, others have obstacle courses or bicycle motor cross (BMX) parks.
The city of Virginia Beach also has several bike trails (totaling more than 100 miles) within the city limits and along the waterfront; these are restricted for pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, etc. A map of these trails can be found at: http://www.vbgov.com, "Parks and Recreation".
A map of bike-friendly roads and trails in the Norfolk area is available at:
A list of parks and suggested biking areas are listed on the City of Chesapeake's website at:
Where can I leave my bike at the Headquarters? Outdoor bike racks are available near the Headquarters building, and also adjacent to the gym.
No matter where you secure your bike, remember to lock both wheels and the frame to a solid object with a sturdy lock. Bike theft is a prevalent issue, and the possibility of recovering a bike once stolen is highly unlikely.
What equipment is required on my bike? You are required to display front and rear reflectors on all bikes in Virginia. When cycling at night, you are required to have a front (white) and rear (red) light that is visible for a minimum of 600 feet. Functioning brakes are mandatory, but a bell or noisemaking device is optional.
Do I need to register my bike? MAYBE. Both Norfolk and Virginia Beach require bicycles to be registered; Chesapeake has an optional registration service. Even when not mandatory, bicycle registration may facilitate recovery if the bike is stolen. Please note that registration depends on where the bike is being ridden and not the residence of the rider. For instance, someone residing in Chesapeake but riding to work in Norfolk would still need to register in Norfolk.
How do I register my bike?
Chesapeake: Though not legally required, bicycle registration in Chesapeake can be done through the City Treasurer's office. You can register your bicycle in person or by mail by completing the application form (available at: http://www.cityofchesapeake.net), and taking or enclosing a cheque or money order made payable to Chesapeake City Treasurer:
City of Chesapeake Treasurer's Office
P.O. Box 16495
Chesapeake, VA 23328-6495
Norfolk: To register a bike in Norfolk, it is necessary to take the bicycle being registered to one of the city's three police precincts, along with picture identification. The serial number of the bicycle must be visible (it's normally located on the underneath of the bottom bracket), and a receipt for purchase is requested but not required. There is no charge for registration, and the offices are open from 0800 to 1600—Monday through Friday (except holidays). Both children's and adult bicycles are required to be registered. Failure to register a bike can lead to confiscation (i.e., taking away) by police. (Reference: Norfolk Code Section 25-380.)
Virginia Beach: Registering a bike in Virginia Beach is done through the City Treasurer's office, either in person, or by mail. The completed application form (available at: http://www.vbgov.com), along with a cheque or money order in the amount of $1.00 made payable to the Virginia Beach City Treasurer is required:
Virginia Beach City Treasurer
2401 Courthouse Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23456-9018
Failure to register your bicycle may result in a fine (maximum $200) or confiscation of the bicycle by the police. (Reference: Virginia Beach City Code, Chapter 7.)