State transportation officials warn motorists that driving more than 80 mph in 70-mph zones can lead to stiff penalties.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to post signs along portions of Interstate 81 and 95 advising drivers in an effort to reduce speeds and increase safety as well as awareness of the law, the agency announced late last week.

VDOT plans to post a sign on I-81 northbound at the 270.2 milemarker, spokeswoman Sandy Myers said Monday. VDOT will post two signs in Rockbridge County in the Staunton District. The agency will not post signs in Frederick or Warren counties, Myers said.

VDOT conducted a speed study and used traffic sensors on sections of I-81 and I-95 with 70-mph limits. VDOT identified areas with higher percentages of motorists who traveled at speeds over 80 mph and increased crash rates, according to information from Myers.

Many drivers might not realize that authorities can charge them with reckless driving for traveling 10 mph over the speed limit in a 70-mph zone, VDOT advised. Virginia law states that motorists can be charged with reckless driving for traveling 20 mph or more over the speed limit or for going more than 80 mph regardless of the limit.

The Virginia General Assembly approved legislation about six years ago, pushed by then Gov. Bob McDonnell that increased the speed limit on sections of certain interstates to 70 mph. The increase applied to passenger vehicles as well as tractor-trailers. Legislators did not increase the threshold for reckless driving. McDonnell had noted at the time that more than 30 states set speed limits at 70 mph while a dozen had limits at 75 mph.

Virginia classifies reckless driving as a Class 1 misdemeanor and penalties can range from a mandatory minimum fine of $250 to jail time. Authorities can levy reckless driving charges for other actions in addition to excessive speed.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or