What is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is a term used to describe a criminal charge against a driver for ‘reckless’ behavior behind the wheel. Those charged with reckless driving are alleged to have been driving “recklessly”, as defined by state law in the jurisdiction where the act took place.
Generally speaking, the state laws surrounding what constitutes reckless driving are both general and broad, leaving much up to the interpretation of the officer on the scene, and a judge and/or jury. Under most circumstances, a reckless driving charge is considered a misdemeanor, although other aggravating factors may result in harsher charges and/or penalties.
What Does it Mean to Drive Recklessly?
Automobile accidents are one of the leading non-medical causes of injury and death across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year more than 3 million individuals are non-fatally injured, and over 36,000 fatally injured in motor vehicle accidents.
Although some of these accidents are unavoidable, many could have been prevented. Some research, such as that from AAA, shows that around 87% of drivers engage in what are considered to be reckless driving behaviors behind the wheel.
In those car crashes resulting in death, around 33% found reckless driving to have been a contributing factor to the accident.
How is Driving Reckless Defined by the Law?
Although the particulars of each state’s laws may vary slightly, reckless driving, also known in some states as “Driving to Endanger” or “Reckless Operation”, is defined as:
A willful disregard for the health, well-being or safety of others, or a willful disregard of the potential consequences of one’s actions behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, including but not limited to the potential for causing property damage.
Although reckless driving can be a result of negligence, it is more often a result of a conscious decision to knowingly take an action that exposes other individuals to harm or risk of harm. One unique characteristic about this criminal charge, is that actual injury to a person, or damage to property, is not required to press charges and find a defendant guilty of reckless driving.
What Types of Actions Constitute Reckless Driving?
The types of actions that rise to the level of reckless driving behind the wheel are those in which the motor vehicle is being operated in such a way as to endanger or put others at risk. In other words, any behavior behind the wheel that is dangerous…sometimes even when following the law.
Common Examples of Driving Reckless Include:
- Driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI)
- Driving while impaired (sleepy, medicated, etc.)
- Passing in ‘do not pass’ lanes or in ‘blind spots’
- Swerving in and out of lanes
- Racing on public roadways
- Being distracted while behind the wheel
- Failing to yield to stopped school buses with their “stop sign” out
- Driving around railroad stopping gates
- Failure to stop at a red light or stop sign
- Failure to give the right of way
- Speeding (over a certain limit or when other aggravating circumstances exist)
- Veering into oncoming traffic
- Popping a ‘wheelie’ on a motorcycle
- Spinning your tires
- Fleeing from the police (in some states)
- Driving in or on areas not intended for automobiles (such as a public sidewalk)
- Any other maneuver considered dangerous (such as tailgating)
Real-World Scenarios Involving What is Considered Reckless:
Example: The posted speed limit is 55mph, and you are driving 55mph. So far so good. But the weather conditions are such that following the speed limit is dangerous (i.e. pouring down rain or whiteout conditions). If you maintain your speed at 55mph without slowing to adjust to the weather, this could be considered both dangerous and reckless driving.
Example: You’re running late, so you hit the gas harder than a punching bag, speed limit be darned. Normally you’d just get a speeding ticket if pulled over, but you live in a state with “Per Se” laws, and you happened to have seen “Fast and the Furious” one too many times. You hit 100mph without even realizing, and now what would have been a standard speeding ticket, is a “Reckless Driving” charge. By the way, in some states, such as California, you need only to be going 15mph over the posted speed limit to be charged with reckless driving (i.e. 50 in a 35).
Example: You love your new car and its new digital display. You love it so much that you are playing with it while driving instead of paying attention to the road, resulting in you swerving in and out of your lane. This is known as “distracted driving”, one of the most common types of reckless driving.
Example: All of that construction work finally got to you, and your doctor recently prescribed you muscle relaxers for your aching back. You know that drowsiness is a potential side effect but you feel ok right now and you decide to run some errands. After all, the groceries won’t buy themselves. You get into an accident, and when the officer finds your prescription bottle you are charged with reckless driving.
What Are the Consequences of Driving Reckless?
Reckless driving charges can range from a simple misdemeanor to a felony in some situations. Regardless of the class of law broken, any criminal charge should be taken seriously.
Potential penalties that can be imposed for violation of this law (if found guilty), include:
- Jail time
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Vehicle impound
- Accruing ‘points’ on your driving record
- Expensive fines and court costs
- Loss of driver’s insurance (i.e. dropped by some carriers)
Will a Reckless Driving Ticket Impact My Insurance?
In many cases, yes. If convicted of reckless driving, your premiums may go up, or your insurance provider may drop you altogether. If this happens, your options for insurance coverage may be limited to those considered for ‘high risk’ drivers.
SR-22 Insurance: what is it?
Having automobile insurance is a mandatory requirement in all 50 United States. But what do you do if your carrier drops you or says that you are no longer eligible for coverage due to your driving record? SR22 insurance may be the answer.
SR-22 is a ‘certificate of insurance’ or ‘certificate of financial responsibility’ that enables high-risk drivers to meet their state’s minimum requirements for car insurance coverage. Unlike traditional insurance policies, SR-22 itself is not insurance, but rather provides a policy and guarantee by the insurance company to the state that you are financially responsible for any accidents for which you are found liable.
The cost of an SR-22 is largely based on both the state in which you reside, as well as the infraction on your driving record. In other words, the type of criminal charge and conviction that is on your record will impact how much you’ll be paying in premiums.
Stay Safe, Stay Covered
Driving is arguably one of the most dangerous activities we participate in daily. With millions of injuries and thousands of deaths attributed to accidents on American roadways each year, staying alert and prudent when behind the wheel is paramount.
For those who have been convicted of reckless driving, getting back on the roadways can be a challenge. If you or a loved one need help with insurance in order to meet your state’s requirements after having been convicted of reckless driving, give us a call or drop us a message today. Our experienced and compassionate team is eager to learn how they can help you get safely back behind the wheel. Read more information on our blog such as What Happens getting caught driving without insurance and Consequences of a DUI.