Reckless driving

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In United States law, reckless driving is a major moving traffic violation. It is usually a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention and is often punishable by fines, imprisonment, and/or driver's license suspension or revocation.

Reckless driving is often defined as a mental state in which the driver displays a wanton disregard for the rules of the road; the driver often misjudges common driving procedures, often causing accidents and other damages. Reckless driving has been studied by psychologists[1] who found that reckless drivers score high in risk-taking personality traits. However, no one cause can be assigned to this state.

There are some states, such as Virginia,[2] where mental state is not considered, but rather a set of more than a dozen specific violations can be deemed reckless. Excessive speed by itself is sufficient for a reckless driving conviction in some jurisdictions (e.g., Virginia[3]).

State laws[edit]

Alabama[edit]

Code of Alabama 1975, Title 32 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic), Section 32-5A-190 (Reckless driving):
(a) Any person who drives any vehicle carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of persons or property, or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property, shall be guilty of reckless driving.
(b) Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished upon a first conviction by imprisonment for a period of not less than five days nor more than 90 days, or by fine of not less than $25.00 nor more than $500.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and on a second or subsequent conviction shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than 10 days nor more than six months, or by a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and the court may prohibit the person so convicted from driving a motor vehicle on the public highways of this state for a period not exceeding six months, and the license of the person shall be suspended for such period by the Director of Public Safety pursuant to Section 32-5A-195.
(c) Neither reckless driving nor any other moving violation under this chapter is a lesser included offense under a charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Acts 1980, No. 80-434, p. 604, §9-101.) [1]

Alaska[edit]

Alaska Statutes, Title 28 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 35 (Offenses and Accidents), Section 40. (Reckless Driving)
(a) A person who drives a motor vehicle in the state in a manner that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property is guilty of reckless driving. A substantial and unjustifiable risk is a risk of such a nature and degree that the conscious disregard of it or a failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
(b) A person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or by both.
(c) Lawfully conducted automobile, snowmobile, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle racing or exhibition events are not subject to the provisions of this section. (AS 28.35.040) [2]

Arizona[edit]

28-693. Reckless driving; classification; license; surrender
A. A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
B. A person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.
C. In addition, the judge may require the surrender to a police officer of any driver license of the convicted person, shall report the conviction to the department and may order the driving privileges of the person to be suspended for a period of not more than ninety days. On receipt of the abstract of conviction and order, the department shall suspend the driving privilege of the person for the period of time ordered by the judge.
D. If a person who is convicted of a violation of this section has been previously convicted of a violation of this section, section 13-1102 or section 13-1103, subsection A, paragraph 1, in the driving of a vehicle, or section 28-708, 28-1381, 28-1382 or 28-1383 within a period of twenty-four months:
1. The person is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
2. The person is not eligible for probation, pardon, suspension of sentence or release on any basis until the person has served not less than twenty days in jail.
3. The judge may require the surrender to a police officer of any driver license of the person and shall immediately forward the abstract of conviction to the department.
4. On receipt of the abstract of conviction, the department shall revoke the driving privilege of the person.
E. The dates of the commission of the offense are the determining factor in applying subsection D of this section. A second or subsequent violation for which a conviction occurs as provided in this section does not include a conviction for an offense arising out of the same series of acts.
F. On pronouncement of a jail sentence under this section, and after the court receives confirmation that the person is employed or is a student, the court may provide in the sentence that if the defendant is employed or is a student the defendant can continue employment or schooling for not more than twelve hours per day nor more than five days per week. The defendant shall spend the remaining days or parts of days in jail until the sentence is served and shall be allowed out of jail only long enough to complete the defendant's actual hours of employment or schooling. [3]

Arkansas[edit]

Arkansas Code, Title 27 (Transportation), Subtitle 4 (Motor Vehicular Traffic), Chapter 50 (Penalties and Enforcement), Subchapter 3 (Offenses and Penalties Generally)
(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(b)(1)(A) If physical injury to a person results, every person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished upon a first conviction by imprisonment for a period of not less than thirty (30) days nor more than ninety (90) days or by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(B) Otherwise, every person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished upon a first conviction by imprisonment for a period of not less than five (5) days nor more than ninety (90) days or a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(2)(A) For a second or subsequent offense occurring within three (3) years of the first offense, every person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than six (6) months or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(B) However, if the second or subsequent offense involves physical injury to a person, the person convicted shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than sixty (60) days nor more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment. (AC 27-50-30; Acts 1937, No. 300, § 50; Pope's Dig., § 6708; Acts 1955, No. 186, § 1; A.S.A. 1947, § 75-1003; Acts 1987, No. 258, § 1) [4]

California[edit]

California Vehicle Code§ 23103.5: Wet Reckless or Reckless Driving Involving Alcohol (Priorable as a California DUI)
(a) Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(b) Any person who drives any vehicle in any off-street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(c) Persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104.

Amended Sec. 19, Ch. 739, Stats. 2001. Effective January 1, 2002.

Reckless Driving: Bodily Injury Vehicle Code 23104
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), whenever reckless driving of a vehicle proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver, the person driving the vehicle shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than six months or by a fine of not less than two hundred twenty dollars ($220) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(b) Any person convicted of reckless driving which proximately causes great bodily injury, as defined in Section 12022.7 of the Penal Code, to any person other than the driver, who previously has been convicted of a violation of Section 23103, 23104, 23109, 23152, or 23153, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than six months or by a fine of not less than two hundred twenty dollars ($220) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by both the fine and imprisonment.

Amended Ch. 216, Stats. 1984. Effective January 1, 1985.

Florida[edit]

Florida Statutes Section 316.192: Reckless Driving [5]
(1)(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(b) Fleeing a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle is reckless driving per se.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (3), any person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished:
(a) Upon a first conviction, by imprisonment for a period of not more than 90 days or by fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(b) On a second or subsequent conviction, by imprisonment for not more than 6 months or by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(3) Any person:
(a) Who is in violation of subsection (1);
(b) Who operates a vehicle; and
(c) Who, by reason of such operation, causes:
1. Damage to the property or person of another commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
2. Serious bodily injury to another commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. The term "serious bodily injury" means an injury to another person, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, $5 shall be added to a fine imposed pursuant to this section. The clerk shall remit the $5 to the Department of Revenue for deposit in the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.
(5) In addition to any other penalty provided under this section, if the court has reasonable cause to believe that the use of alcohol, chemical substances set forth in s. 877.111, or substances controlled under chapter 893 contributed to a violation of this section, the court shall direct the person so convicted to complete a DUI program substance abuse

Georgia[edit]

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390. Reckless driving

(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.
(b) Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or by both such fine and imprisonment, provided that no provision of this Code section shall be construed so as to deprive the court imposing the sentence of the power given by law to stay or suspend the execution of such sentence or to place the defendant on probation.[4]

New York[edit]

Reckless driving in New York is not a non-criminal "petty offense" or "traffic infraction." Reckless Driving is a "misdemeanor" and therefore a "crime." A conviction for Reckless Driving is a conviction for a crime and such a conviction results in a permanent criminal record. Other than in the New York City Criminal Court, an adult defendant has a right to a jury trial for all misdemeanors, including Reckless Driving. If convicted of Reckless Driving, a defendant must be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail (up to 90 or 180 days for certain repeat offenders) and/or a fine of up to $300 plus a court surcharge of at least $70. Additionally, if convicted, the DMV will assess 5 points on your driving record. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

New York VEHICLE & TRAFFIC LAW Section 1212. Reckless Driving

§ 1212. Reckless driving. Reckless driving shall mean driving or using any motor vehicle, motorcycle or any other vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power or any appliance or accessory thereof in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway. Reckless driving is prohibited. Every person violating this provision shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. [11]

Oregon[edit]

Oregon Revised Statutes

[12] ORS 811.140 Reckless driving • penalty (1) A person commits the offense of reckless driving if the person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. (2) The use of the term recklessly in this section is as defined in ORS 161.085 (Definitions with respect to culpability). (3) The offense described in this section, reckless driving, is a Class A misdemeanor and is applicable upon any premises open to the public. [1983 c.338 §571]

Tennessee[edit]

Tennessee Code §55-10-205: Reckless driving [13]
(a) Any person who drives a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property commits reckless driving.
(b) A person commits an offense of reckless driving who drives a motorcycle with the front tire raised off the ground in willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property on any public street, highway, alley, parking lot, or driveway, or on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex, or any other premises which are generally frequented by the public at large. Provided, the offense of reckless driving for driving a motorcycle with the front tire raised off the ground shall not be applicable to persons riding in a parade, at a speed not to exceed thirty (30) miles per hour, if the person is eighteen (18) years of age or older.
(c) A violation of this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

Amended July 1, 2007 [14]

Virginia[edit]

The Code of Virginia has over 20 sections pertaining to reckless driving. It is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and not a traffic infraction. For example, Virginia code explicitly defines the act of speeding 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit (or at any speed greater than 80 mph) as reckless driving.

Drivers convicted of reckless driving in Virginia, including out-of-state and foreign (e.g. Canadian) drivers, will NOT have a criminal record from this conviction. The conviction is NOT indexed in the National Crime Information Center NOR is it reported to the Virginia Central Criminal Records Exchange.[5] However, the conviction is added to a Virginia driving record for 11 years, and six demerit points are applied.[6]

A person charged with reckless driving, if they show that their actions, while they do show insufficient care or failure to properly operate a vehicle, but are not truly serious enough to reach the level of reckless driving, may instead be convicted by the court of the lesser included offense of improper driving which is considered a traffic infraction. This potential reduction in level of offense is only available at trial, as a law enforcement officer can only write a traffic ticket or summons for reckless driving, they do not have the ability to write a ticket for improper driving.[7]

Commonly applied statutes for reckless driving

§ 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule. – Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.
§ 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit. – A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth (i) at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit or (ii) in excess of eighty miles per hour regardless of the applicable maximum speed limit.
§ 46.2-868. Reckless driving; penalties. —
A. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
B. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, (i) was driving without a valid operator's license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and, (ii) as the sole and proximate result of his reckless driving, caused the death of another, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

List of applicable statutes from the Code of Virginia

§ 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule.
§ 46.2-853. Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes.
§ 46.2-854. Passing on or at the crest of a grade or on a curve.
§ 46.2-855. Driving with driver's view obstructed or control impaired.
§ 46.2-856. Passing two vehicles abreast.
§ 46.2-857. Driving two abreast in a single lane.
§ 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing.
§ 46.2-859. Passing a stopped school bus; prima facie evidence.
§ 46.2-860. Failing to give proper signals
§ 46.2-861. Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions.
§ 46.2-862. Exceeding speed limit.
§ 46.2-863. Failure to yield right-of-way.
§ 46.2-864. Reckless driving on parking lots, etc.
§ 46.2-865. Racing; penalty.
§ 46.2-865.1. Injuring another or causing the death of another while engaging in a race; penalties.
§ 46.2-866. Racing; aiders or abettors.
§ 46.2-867. Racing; seizure of motor vehicle.
§ 46.2-868. Reckless driving; penalties.
§ 46.2-869. Improper driving; penalty.
§ 46.2-878.1. Maximum speed limits in highway work zones; penalty.
§ 46.2-829. Approach of law-enforcement or fire-fighting vehicles, rescue vehicles, or ambulances; violation as failure to yield right-of-way
§ 46.2-392. Suspension of license or issuance of a restricted license on conviction of reckless or aggressive driving; probationary conditions required; generally.
§ 46.2-393. Suspension of license on conviction of certain reckless offenses; restricted licenses.
§ 46.2-396. Suspension of license for reckless driving resulting in death of any person.

Washington[edit]

RCW 46.61.500 Reckless driving - Penalty.
(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.
(2) The license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege of any person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the department for not less than thirty days.
RCW 46.61.530 Racing of vehicles on highways - Reckless driving - Exception.
No person or persons may race any motor vehicle or motor vehicles upon any public highway of this state. Any person or persons who wilfully compare or contest relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles shall be guilty of racing, which shall constitute reckless driving under RCW 46.61.500, whether or not such speed is in excess of the maximum speed prescribed by law: PROVIDED HOWEVER, That any comparison or contest of the accuracy with which motor vehicles may be operated in terms of relative speeds not in excess of the posted maximum speed does not constitute racing.

West Virginia[edit]

§17C-5-3. Reckless driving; penalties.
(a) Any person who drives any vehicle upon any street or highway, or upon any residential street, or in any parking area, or upon the ways of any institution of higher education, whether public or private, or upon the ways of any state institution, or upon the property of any county boards of education, or upon any property within the state park and public recreation system established by the Director of the Division of Natural Resources pursuant to section three, article four, chapter twenty of this code in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
(b) The provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to those areas which have been temporarily closed for racing sport events or which may be set aside by the Director of the Division of Natural Resources within the state park and recreation system for exclusive use by motorcycles or other recreational vehicles.
(c) Every person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon a first conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail for a period of not less than five days nor more than ninety days, or fined not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or both, and upon conviction of a second or subsequent conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail not less than ten days nor more than six months, or fined not less than fifty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or both.
(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, any person convicted of a violation of subsection (a) of this section who in doing so proximately causes another to suffer serious bodily injury shall, upon conviction, be confined in jail not less than ten days nor more than six months or fined not less than fifty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or both.
(e) For purposes of subsection (d) of this section, "serious bodily injury" means bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death, which causes serious or prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

See also[edit]

United Kingdom traffic laws

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]