There are so many things to pay attention to while driving, including reckless driving behaviors. You may become or have been a victim of the actions of a reckless driver. Or, you may have a habit of driving reckless yourself. This form of unsafe driving encompasses many driving behaviors, so some habits that you have might make you as a reckless driver. Understanding what constitutes reckless driving can help you become more aware of your own or another person’s dangerous driving behaviors.

Reckless driving is a serious offense punishable by law with harsh consequences. Every state in the U.S. has variations of consequences for driving behaviors that fall under the definition of reckless driving. This article provides an in-depth description of what is considered reckless driving along with other details about the behaviors, consequences and ways to change habits regarding reckless driving.  

What is reckless driving?

Many motorists ask, “what is reckless driving?” Reckless driving is defined as driving with wanton disregard for the rights and safety of others or their property. It is a broadly defined violation that can encompass many driving behaviors.

Therefore, it is at the discretion of police officers and judges to determine if a driver was truly driving recklessly or just committing one specific traffic violation.

Reckless Driving Behaviors

Because of the broad definition of reckless driving, there are many dangerous driving behaviors and separate traffic violations that fall under the definition. The reckless driving behaviors listed below could be done either carelessly or on purpose and still be considered reckless behavior.

  1. Speeding

Speeding is a punishable violation on its own but people wonder, “is speeding reckless driving?” Negligent and dangerous speed values usually begin at 10 mph over the posted speed limit. However, speeding alone is not enough to convict an individual of reckless driving.

The conditions of the road, traffic and weather are also taken into consideration by officials when determining whether a driver was driving recklessly.

  1. Tailgating

Drivers are advised to stay a safe distance behind cars. Tailgating involves driving exceptionally close to a car and thus can result in accidents and reckless driving consequences.

A good rule of thumb for safe distancing is driving at least 10 feet per every 10 mph behind the car in front of you. Motorists tailgate for many reasons including impatience, ignorance of safe driving habits or because they are aggressive drivers. This kind of behavior can easily cause a fender bender or more serious accident at higher speeds.

  1. Not Using Turning Signals

Failing to use turning signals, especially during congested traffic and hazardous conditions, is illegal in many states. Failure to use turning signals falls under the definition of reckless driving.

Turning signals indicate your intentions to other drivers. If someone is planning on increasing their speed while you are turning into their lane and you do not indicate your intentions, an accident will likely occur. This is considered reckless driving because you failed to consider other drivers in your decision.  

  1. Disregarding Red Lights and Stop Signs

Ignoring traffic lights and signs compromises your safety and that of other drivers on the road.  Even if you do not see other cars, you still must follow traffic laws and come to a full stop.

Disregarding these safety measures purposely or because of distractions or carelessness increases your chances of deadly car accidents. Engaging in this type of driving behavior can award you a reckless driving charge.

  1. Aggressive Driving

Aggressive drivers are usually identified by their repeated angry driving reactions. Some of these are incessant and inappropriate honking, not using proper merging etiquette, cutting off drivers and unsafe lane changes. Stopping abruptly to “punish” drivers behind you is also an aggressive driving technique.

These drivers are hostile and typically seem to only be concerned with their own safety and needs. Aggressive driving can get you arrested for reckless driving

What are Reckless Driving Penalties

Driving reckless is considered a major moving violation under U.S. law, thus reckless driving penalties can be severe. Motorists often ask “is reckless driving a misdemeanor?” and the answer is yes. Drivers cited for this violation will receive a reckless driving misdemeanor, meaning that they will receive penalties beyond a traffic ticket that involve serving up to a one year in jail.

Degrees of Penalties

Driving recklessly might be a difficult habit for some motorists to break. The law, however, increases the severity of reckless driving consequences with each offence. The severity depends on each state’s specific laws and the presence of any bodily or property damage.

Many motorists ask “how much is a reckless driving ticket?” A reckless driving ticket cost is typically between $25 and $1,000 depending on the state. A reckless driving fine increases in the event of property or bodily damage as well as repeated offenses.

Often, a first offense with no damage is considered a second degree misdemeanor. The driver must pay an expensive fine, his or her license will be suspended for a maximum of 90 days and will often serve jail time for reckless driving.  

A second offense, and any subsequent offense, in some states is considered a felony. It is punishable with a reckless driving ticket of $5,000 and five years in prison if the driver caused and serious bodily harm.

Aside from the costs of your time and money, the penalty for reckless driving includes increased insurance rates. Your rates will at least double after a reckless driving charge.

Reducing Reckless Driving

It is essential for all drivers, not just those convicted, to reduce their reckless driving. In many states, convicted drivers are mandated to complete a reckless driving class to gain knowledge about safe driving practices.

Reckless drivers would benefit from a driver improvement course because it would help keep points from accumulating on their records. It would also teach drivers about safe driving behaviors to correct their dangerous driving habits.

Even if you monitor and fix your own reckless driving, there will still be other motorists to watch out for. To keep yourself safe against others’ driving one of the best things you could do is maintain safe driving habits and just let the reckless driver pass.


Last updated on Wednesday, October 14 2020.