What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

By March 10, 2023April 7th, 2023Car Accidents

When a driver ignores traffic laws and safety rules, the risk of a collision increases significantly. Drivers stopped for behaving this way behind the wheel could face criminal reckless driving charges. If they cause a collision, they might also face a civil case against them.

If a reckless driver caused your collision, you should consider working with a car accident attorney who knows how to prove these cases and secure compensation for clients. In most states, a reckless driver who causes a crash is legally responsible for any resulting injuries, expenses, and losses.

How Does the Law Define Reckless Driving?

How Does the Law Define Reckless Driving?

Each state sets its own definition for reckless driving, but they all focus on the same issue: the driver’s disregard for others’ safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines reckless driving as “driving a motor vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This intentional disregard for traffic laws and the safety of others is at the heart of this crime.

Reckless driving is generally a criminal act. This is not a mere traffic citation. Those who face these charges often make appearances in criminal courts and could face jail time for a conviction. Penalties vary depending on the offense’s details.

Examples of Reckless Driving Practices

In most cases, reckless driving involves much more than a careless mistake. Some of the behaviors that might support a reckless driving stop and citation could include:

Disregarding Traffic Signals

Failing to obey a traffic signal is more than blowing through a red light.

It could also refer to:

  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Failing to merge before a lane ends
  • Neglecting to adjust one’s speed while in a school zone
  • Passing another vehicle when it’s prohibited

Traffic signs and signals exist to keep road users safe. When motorists don’t heed these signs, their negligence puts lives at risk.


Speeding gives motorists less time to react when hazards occur. For instance, a speeding driver has less time to avoid hitting a pedestrian who has the right of way. They also have less time to react if their brakes fail or a roadway becomes unsafe.

Distracted Driving

A motorist engages in distracted driving whenever their mind, eyes, or hands are off the steering wheel.

Examples of distracted driving include performing these actions behind the wheel:

  • Texting
  • Eating
  • Addressing other passengers
  • Restraining an animal
  • Changing the car’s radio or Bluetooth speaker
  • Reaching for a fallen object
  • Focusing on a GPS instead of the road ahead

Many states have laws prohibiting various forms of distracted driving. Still, this does not stop many motorists.

Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol

Driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance (including prescription drugs) is illegal.

When someone doesn’t have full control of their facilities, they may:

  • Weave in and out of lanes
  • Exceed the speed limit
  • Fail to brake promptly
  • Engage in other acts of negligence, such as texting
  • Engage in road rage

If an intoxicated motorist caused your collision, you could sue them in civil court—even if they face criminal charges.

Driving While Fatigued

Many states don’t have laws prohibiting driving while fatigued. Yet, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), driving while fatigued has the same effect as driving while intoxicated. Driving while fatigued is common among commercial truck drivers, who sometimes drive several hours in the same stretch.

Fleeing Law Enforcement

Instead of pulling over, some motorists choose to evade law enforcement. When that happens, they could speed and otherwise put others’ lives at risk. All states require motorists to pull over when signaled by police officers. Fleeing is illegal and constitutes negligence.

There are other examples of reckless driving than those listed here.

What Happens to a Reckless Driver When They Face Charges?

In most cases, reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime. Still, the driver could face serious penalties. The consequences a reckless driver faces if convicted vary from state to state.

Generally, these penalties include:

  • Time in county jail
  • Driver license suspension
  • Fines
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Points on their driving record
  • Significant car insurance increases

For example, under Georgia law, a reckless driving misdemeanor conviction could call for:

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to 12 months in jail

Some judges and jurisdictions also require additional actions, such as completing a drug and alcohol program or community service. Those under 21 could also face an automatic driver’s license suspension.

These legal consequences are in addition to any civil liability the motorist may have when an accident occurs. If you suffered injuries from a reckless driver, you could file a claim and recover damages. If police arrested them, you could use their arrest record to bolster your claim’s outcome.

Why Is Reckless Driving so Dangerous?

Reckless driving significantly increases the risk of a collision. It not only puts the driver in danger, but also their fellow drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and others. Reckless drivers only need to make a small mistake for their behavior to go from bad to tragic. Reckless driving crashes cause serious injuries and even fatalities, often to innocent victims in other vehicles.

Violating any one traffic law can cause a collision. In fact, human carelessness is the most common cause of crashes. Accidentally failing to yield to oncoming traffic when turning left can be life-altering, for instance.

Reckless Driving Crashes Often Occur at Excessive Speeds

High speeds generally accompany reckless driving. While speeding on its own does not always support a reckless driving charge, many motorists engage in other reckless driving behaviors while speeding. They could ignore traffic, weather, and road conditions, too.

When a driver speeds, they have less time to make good decisions and dodge hazards. Maintaining control of the vehicle is often difficult. Collisions at high speeds can cause catastrophic, life-altering injuries. Again, if you suffered injuries from a collision involving a distracted driver, you have financial recovery options.

You Can Seek Damages if a Reckless Driver Hurt You

When a reckless driver causes a traffic accident, you can hold them legally responsible. This is possible by filing a lawsuit against the driver or demanding fair compensation from their auto liability insurance provider. Working with a car accident lawyer to navigate this process and handle your case is a good idea.

The goal is to hold the reckless driver financially accountable for their behavior, including the injuries and damages they caused. This process also seeks to recover compensation that covers your injury-related expenses.

You Could Recover These Losses Through Legal Action

The recoverable damages in civil cases vary based on the circumstances. No two accidents and injuries are the same. Your attorney can identify your recoverable damages before proceeding with your case.

Compensation may constitute:

  • Medical bills and related expenses, current and future
  • Income losses, including tips, wages, benefits, and commissions
  • Diminished earning capacity because of lasting impairments
  • Property damages, such as vehicle repairs
  • Related miscellaneous expenses
  • Pain and suffering

You may recover additional damages than those listed here. For instance, if you hired someone to supervise your children during your recovery, you could include those costs in your claim. If you required assistive devices, your claim or lawsuit could cover those expenses, as well.

You Have Options for Seeking Compensation

There are generally two ways an attorney helps a crash victim recover compensation: through a negotiated settlement or a court verdict. Your lawyer can strategize to pursue fair compensation and get justice. Throughout the claims process, they can answer your questions and explain your options.

Building a Car Accident Case Against a Reckless Driver

To recover compensation after suffering a collision, you must know the cause of your crash, who played a role, and the expenses and losses you suffered as a result. Without knowing these things, it is impossible to recover a fair payout. That’s because many personal injury cases (including those involving reckless drivers) require that you prove negligence.

Here’s a scenario to understand this principle further. Imagine a motorist blew through a red light while street racing another driver. They violated several laws in this scenario, and their actions caused your crash. But what do you need to prove?

You must demonstrate:

  • They had a duty of care to stop at the traffic light.
  • Running the red light breached their duty of care.
  • Their breach caused the crash.
  • You suffered injuries in the collision.

Proving negligence requires strong evidence to show what happened, leaving little doubt about who was legally responsible for the accident. Gathering evidence and proving negligence is easier with the help of an attorney. They know where to find evidence, the type of evidence necessary, and how to present it effectively. With an attorney managing your claim, you can focus on healing.

You Need Evidence to Support Your Reckless Driving Car Accident Case

Securing compensation requires a strong evidence-supported case. Why is evidence so important, though? Many insurers hesitate to pay injured parties what they’re owed. The more evidence a case has, the harder the claims adjuster has to contest it.

Investigating a crash is often very difficult for crash victims working independently because they lack the knowledge, experience, and resources of a car accident attorney.

If you work with a lawyer, they can bolster your claim with:

  • The accident report filed by the police
  • Any citations issued, including those for reckless driving
  • Evidence from the criminal case against the driver, when available
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Videos of the crash
  • An accident scene survey
  • Accident reconstruction data
  • Physical evidence
  • Relevant medical records
  • Expert testimony
  • Documentation of damages (i.e., receipts and invoices)

Once your attorney has the evidence necessary to understand what happened, they can determine what constitutes a fair settlement. Then, they can take action. This generally includes demanding fair compensation from the insurer, suing the reckless driver, or both.

Frequently Asked Questions About Reckless Driving

If you suffered injuries in a collision, you may have these questions as they relate to reckless driving:

How Much Can I Recover After an Accident Caused by Reckless Driving?

How much you can recover through a claim or lawsuit depends on your situation, primarily, the severity of your injuries. The more severe your injuries, the more medical care you could require—and the more medical care you require, the more compensation you can request. A lawyer can assess your situation and explain how much you can seek.

Is Reckless Driving Ever Justified?

Upon filing your case, the other party may claim that they had a good reason to engage in reckless driving. Still, intention means little in the eyes of the law. All motorists must drive as a reasonable person would in the same situation. Otherwise, they could face liability for any resulting damages.

What Is the Leading Type of Reckless Driving?

Per the Insurance Information Institute (III), speeding is the most common type of reckless driving. The organization reports that speeding increases the likelihood of fatal collisions, too. Other examples of reckless driving include intoxication, failing to yield, and failing to maintain one’s lane.

How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?

Each personal injury case comes with its own timeline. It could take weeks, months, or even years to recover the full cost of your damages. When you partner with an attorney, they can do everything possible to push your claim forward. This involves filing your case-related documents on time, interviewing witnesses, and protecting you from bad faith insurance tactics.

You Can Take Action in a Reckless Driving Civil Case

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If you suffered injuries in a crash caused by a reckless driver, a car accident attorney can explain your rights and take legal action. Most personal injury firms provide free initial consultations where you can learn about your next steps. They can also discuss your case’s details, assess your options, and answer your case-related questions.

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