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Fatal car accidents have increased in recent years in Vermont. From 58 in 2020, the number of crashes that resulted in deaths jumped to 69 in 2021 and 74 in 2022. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) noted that the number of crash fatalities in the state in 2022 had been the highest since 2012. Experts linked the increase to reduced law enforcement during the pandemic.

It’s therefore not surprising that violations like speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and not wearing a seat belt were major contributors to fatal accidents in 2022, according to data from VTrans and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This guide, while not exhaustive, will help you remember the rules you must follow as a driver, the consequences you will face if you break the law and cause injury to others, and the legal options available to you in case you find yourself in a car accident. 

Vermont Speeding Laws

The default speed limit in Vermont is 50 mph. Depending on the type of road one is driving on or its location, the speed limit can be lower or higher than the standard speed. For instance, in the town of Westminster, there are roads with a speed limit as low as 25 mph. These are known as absolute speed limits, and if the driver is caught breaking them, the consequence can range from a fine to jail time.

In addition to absolute speed limits, Vermont has a basic speed law. It requires motorists to keep their speed within safe limits to avoid hitting other cars, people, or things. Here, the definition of what speed is safe could change depending on factors like road conditions, weather, and time of day. Thus, the driver should be aware of actual and potential dangers on the road and adjust their speed as needed. 

Driving over the speed limit in Vermont can result in heavy fines and points on the driver’s record. The penalties for excessive speed are imprisonment for up to three months and a maximum fine of $300 on a first conviction. A second conviction results in a longer prison sentence and a larger fine. Violators can also incur points against their driving record.

Vermont Drunk Driving Law

The drunk driving law in Vermont makes it illegal for anyone to operate, attempt to operate, or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway in any of the following situations:

  • When the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or more, or 0.02 or more if they are operating a school bus

  • When the person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor

  • When the person is under the influence of any drug or alcohol or a combination of both

  • When the person's BAC is 0.04 or more if they are operating a commercial motor vehicle

The law also imposes prohibitions on those convicted of a second or subsequent violation when their BAC is 0.16 or more, as well as on those involved in accidents resulting in deaths or injuries who refuse to submit to an evidentiary test to measure their blood alcohol concentration.

An evidentiary test is one that a police officer administers if they reasonably suspect that a person is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Under the state's implied consent law, a person suspected of DUI must take an evidentiary test or risk being charged with criminal refusal, which can lead to a six-month license suspension for the first offense alone.

If a Vermont police officer stops you on reasonable suspicion of DUI, you have a right to talk to an attorney before deciding whether to submit to an evidentiary test. However, you can only exercise this right for a limited time.

A criminal refusal charge and a DUI conviction can get you in both serious legal and financial trouble. Some consequences of DUI or DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) are as follows:

  • License suspension or revocation

  • Mandated alcohol or drug counseling, ranging in cost from $500 to $1,000

  • 40% to 60% increase in auto insurance premiums 

  • Lost wages of up to around $4,000 

  • Attorney fees, court costs, and fines amounting to $6,500 on average 

  • Interlock device installation and monitoring fees

  • Imprisonment of two years for the first offense, or longer for repeat offenses or if there are fatalities

Vermont Seat Belt Law

Whether you are the driver or a passenger, you must wear seat belts properly while the vehicle is moving. This means that you cannot place the lap and shoulder belts behind your back or under your arms, or you will be in violation of the seat belt law and may be required to pay the following fines:

  • First violation: $25 

  • Second violation: $50 

  • Third and subsequent violations: $100 

Certain individuals or situations are exempt from this law, including the following: 

  • Rural mail carriers of the U.S. Postal Service operating a motor vehicle while on duty

  • Drivers or passengers frequently stopping and leaving the motor vehicle, if the speed between stops is not more than 15 miles per hour

  • Emergency personnel, firefighters, law enforcers, and the like who, if restrained, will not be able to carry out their duties

For children younger than 18, Vermont statute 23 V.S.A. § 1258 requires using a child restraint system that meets federal safety standards. The same law discusses the specifics according to factors such as the child’s age and weight.

For example, children younger than 1 year or under 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing position with a child restraint system. This equipment must be federally approved and installed away from an active airbag.

Vermont Distracted Driving Laws

The state penalizes distracted driving. Those who violate the prohibitions on texting and the use of handheld electronic devices face a fine of $100 to $200 for a first offense. A second or subsequent offense within two years is punishable by a fine ranging from $250 to $500. Two points may be charged against the driver’s record.

The penalties are harsher if the violation occurs in the following areas:

  • A construction zone where workers are present

  • A school zone with proper warning signs

The driver can be subject to a fine of $200 to $400 for a first violation and $500 to $1,000 for a second or subsequent violation within a two-year period. First-time offenders can get four points on their driving record, whereas repeat offenders can receive five points. 

Vermont started banning texting and driving in 2010. The law against using portable electronic equipment like cell phones, laptops, and gaming devices while driving came into effect in 2014. However, research shows that the above measures have had little impact on reducing texting behavior.

The Vermont State Police reports that distracted driving is still a factor in 11% of all fatal accidents every year. This data underlines the need for strict compliance with distracted driving laws.

If you get injured in a car crash or lose a loved one due to distracted driving, an auto accident lawyer can guide you through the process of recovering damages. But first, you must understand a driver’s obligations at the scene of an accident. 

Vermont Hit-and-Run Laws

The duties of a driver who has caused or is involved in a crash are listed in 23 V.S.A. § 1128 and 23 V.S.A. § 1129. If the driver causes injury to another person or damage to property other than their own vehicle, the law requires them to do the following:

  • Stop or pull over to the side of the road

  • Help anyone else involved in the accident, if necessary

  • Give their personal information to the other driver, including name, address, and license number

Leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling the above obligations can result in a hit-and-run charge, which is punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,000. The penalties are more severe if someone is hurt or killed in the accident.

Other requirements imposed by law on drivers who are involved in a car accident are as follows: 

  • If there’s an injury to a person or damage to property worth at least $3,000, the driver must make a written report about the collision and submit it to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles within 72 hours after the accident. 

  • The owner and the operator of a motor vehicle covered by liability insurance must provide their insurance company’s details to any individual injured in the accident or the owner of the property damaged by the motor vehicle. This requirement must be met within five days of the crash.

Liability insurance coverage can help pay for the injuries or damage caused by a car accident. In Vermont, liability and uninsured motorist coverages are both mandatory.

Vermont Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

Anyone who owns or drives a car in Vermont is required by law to purchase auto liability insurance in the following minimum amounts: 

  • $10,000 for property damage 

  • $25,000 for injury or death of one person 

  • $50,000 for injury or death of more than one person

23 V.S.A. § 941 also states that car owners must have uninsured motorist coverage with the following minimum limits per accident:

  • $50,000 for injury or death of one person

  • $100,000 for injury or death of more than one person

If you’re caught driving in Vermont without the mandated insurance coverage, you may face the following penalties: 

It is important to follow the state’s car insurance laws to protect yourself from both the legal and financial repercussions of being involved in a collision. If insurance issues are complicating your car accident case, it is best to consult with a lawyer.

Vermont Is an At-Fault State for Car Insurance Claims

If you suffered injuries in a car accident in Vermont, you could file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance provider.

This is due to Vermont being an “at-fault” state. To recover insurance damages for your injuries, you must be able to establish that the other driver contributed to the cause of the accident.

It is not the case in no-fault states, where anyone involved in a car accident can file a claim with their insurance company and receive compensation regardless of fault. They are not required to prove that their injuries were due to someone else’s negligence.

Determining liability in a car accident can be difficult, so plaintiffs may benefit from the assistance of a law firm specializing in negligence or tort cases.

Vermont Comparative Negligence Rule

There are car accidents where the victim may be partially at fault, but this does not preclude them from seeking compensation. The solution in this situation is the 50% comparative negligence rule, which is followed in Vermont.

This rule means that even if you are partially at fault for a vehicle collision, you may still recover damages if your share of the fault is not more than 50%. 

The court will just reduce the recovery amount in proportion to how much you are at fault. Therefore, if your damages amount to $20,000 and you are deemed 50% at fault for the accident, you will get only $10,000.

Vermont Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

A car accident victim's first option for receiving compensation for their injuries is to file a claim with the negligent driver's insurance carrier. However, if the parties cannot reach an amicable settlement, the next step is to take the case to court.

The victim can file a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of the accident, according to Vermont's statute of limitations for car accident cases. If the accident results in death, the deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. Recovery is no longer possible if no lawsuit is filed within the time limit.

Vermont Average Settlement for Car Accident Lawsuits

The compensation awarded to car accident victims varies greatly between cases, making it difficult to speak in terms of averages. However, settlement amounts can be determined by the following factors: 

  • Amount of insurance the driver carries 

  • Severity of victims’ injuries

  • Wages lost during victims’ medical treatment or hospitalization

  • Victims’ pain and suffering 

  • Cost of damage to property

  • Chance of the case succeeding if it goes to trial

If you’re seeking compensation for injuries resulting from a car accident, a local attorney can examine the details of your claim and provide a reasonable estimate of the potential settlement. 

Legal Resources for Car Accident Victims

Legal Services Vermont

Based in Burlington, this nonprofit law firm provides legal services to low-income Vermonters who need help with civil cases. It offers representation and lawyer referrals through its Pro Bono program. It also runs a legal self-help tool on its website,

Vermont Agency of Transportation Department of Motor Vehicles 

The official Vermont government website provides information about the state’s motor vehicle laws, including enforcement and safety. It also includes a page that offers downloadable forms for reporting car crashes.

Vermont Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service

People who need legal advice or representation for a car accident case can use this online lawyer referral service. To find an attorney, the user can simply use the drop-down menu available on the site to select the area of law in which help is needed, for example, “tort/negligence.” A second menu is for choosing the specific legal issue, like “motor vehicle crash,” and a third menu lets the user specify the county where the accident happened.

The Vermont Statutes Online

This online resource is a copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated (VSA). It contains the laws governing the operation of motor vehicles in the state, including drivers’ rights and obligations in the event of an accident.

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