What is Reckless Driving? How to Avoid Aggressive Driving Accidents


Cassandra Nguy

ckless driving is a traffic violation characterized by willful and wanton disregard of other people or property on the road. Reckless driving greatly increases the risk of car accident injuries, whose effects range from lost wages to permanent disfigurement.

Some states may use the phrase, careless or dangerous driving to describe the same violation.

It’s more than failing to follow traffic rules for someone’s actions to be considered reckless driving. They have to perform actions that completely disregard the safety of those around them. It’s a serious traffic offense where one can be charged with a misdemeanor rather than just an infraction.

If you encountered a reckless driving accident and sustained injuries, it may be possible to organize a lawsuit against the negligent driver. It may be a good call to contact an auto accident attorney to review your case. Erase the doubt and review your driver rights with a professional.

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What is Considered Reckless Driving?

A person is considered recklessly driving when their actions grossly endanger the safety and property of others. A common form of reckless driving would be using a car under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

In certain states, it’s automatically considered reckless driving when:

  • A person drives 25 miles per hour or more beyond the posted speed limit
  • A person engages in racing against another vehicle(s)
  • A person attempts to evade a police officer
  • A person trying to pass a car under heavy traffic

Reckless driving is a serious charge and may result in heavy fines, revoked driving privileges, or possibly jail time.

Common Examples of Reckless Driving

Some common examples of reckless driving you should watch out for and can happen on the road are:

  • Excessive speeding. An example is driving 60 mph on a street road under a 40 mph speed limit.
  • Distracted driving. For instance, a person wearing makeup while driving or using the phone.
  • Aggressively switching lanes and not signaling. For instance, during a rush hour on the highway, the driver constantly changes lanes to get ahead on the road despite slow traffic.
  • Tailgating. When a driver follows too closely behind another vehicle, it can lead to a rear-end accident if the front driver suddenly stops.
  • A driver operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What constitutes reckless driving depends on the context of the car accident and how much it endangered other lives due to negligent behavior.

To properly determine whether your crash occurred due to reckless driving, you may need an attorney to analyze your case.

Aggressive Driving Statistics You Should Know

According to the AAA Foundation’s Annual Safety Culture Index, a 30-day survey showed that millions of drivers engage in the following aggressive driving behavior:

  • 26% aggressively switched lanes quickly or engaged in tailgating.
  • 32% made rude gestures or honked at other drivers.
  • 48% have driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway.
  • 31% had driven through a red light.
  • 22% passed in front of a vehicle at less than a car length.
  • 25% speeded up when another vehicle tried to overtake them.
  • 34% followed vehicles in front closely to prevent another car from merging in front of them.
  • 28% merged into traffic when another driver tried to close the gap between vehicles.

In extreme cases, aggressive driving may escalate to road rage. Thus, when dealing with road rage or aggressive drivers, it’s best to avoid eye contact and never respond to their aggression.

The Definition of ‘Wanton Endangerment’

Wanton endangerment is defined as reckless or deliberate behavior that allows substantial risk to injury, property damage, or wrongful death to another person. A person depicting wanton endangerment shows excessive indifference to human life through their actions.

The Legislative Research Commission in Kentucky states defines wanton endangerment as:

(1) A person is guilty … under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.

(2) Wanton endangerment in the first degree is a Class D felony.

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 508.060

In 2024, section 38 amended this rule to increase the penalty of first-degree wanton endangerment from Class D, to a C felony if the person discharges a firearm in the commission of the offense.

What Speed is Considered Reckless Driving?

Typically, speeding 15 to 36 mph or more above the speed limit in the United States is considered reckless driving. Depending on your state, the road regulations on the speed limit differ.

For instance, some states apply restrictions and strict regulations, whereas other states apply only one restriction.

Below are some states that apply both conditions.

  • North Carolina—15 mph over the speed limit or 80 mph or more regardless of the speed limit
  • Virginia—20 mph over the speed limit or 85 mph regardless of speed limit
  • Oregon—30 mph over the speed limit or 100 mph or more regardless of the speed limit

Here are some states that apply one limitation.

  • Connecticut—85 mph or more regardless of the posted speed limit
  • Arkansas—15 mph or more over the speed limit
  • North Dakota—36 mph or more over the speed limit

Besides speed, all reckless driving behavior can result in a misdemeanor or felony if the circumstances are extreme. Know your state’s car accident laws to determine your area’s speeding laws and how it relates to reckless driving.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

There are steep penalties for reckless driving that vary from state-to-state. These penalties indicate prima facie negligence that may be relevant in your civil claim against the at-fault driver.

Pay attention to these penalties, and find an attorney who can capitalize on your evidence to cover your losses through a legal claim.

  • Fines—common monetary fees ranging from $50 to $1,000 depending on the state laws and situation.
  • Jail Time—if the person was driving recklessly, some states may consider their actions as a criminal offense. Jail time varies by state, but the typical maximum is one year.
  • Probation—depends on the person’s driving history and circumstances. The person would need to visit a probation officer and refrain from committing traffic violations or crimes.
  • Demerit Points—a penalty for reckless driving with up to 6 points may be added and can remain in your license for 11 years. These points will show poor driving history and may increase your insurance premiums. Too many points may lead to license suspension.
  • License Suspension—suspension on your license can last 30 days or more if you have a history of traffic violations. You could also permanently lose your license if the situation involved extreme negligence.

Is Reckless Driving a Felony?

Depending on the state, some view reckless driving as a felony, whereas other states view them as misdemeanors or traffic violations.

Some states that view reckless driving as a felony are:

  • Florida—if serious bodily injury, a felony of the third degree.
  • Illinois—if serious bodily harm to a child or school crossing guard, or great bodily harm on a person, Class 4 Felony.
  • Michigan—if serious bodily injury.
  • Rhode Island—second conviction and subsequent convictions will equal a felony.
  • Vermont—subsequent convictions will result in a felony.

All these states consider reckless driving as a felony if a person was dealt significant bodily harm. Thus, be careful of other reckless drivers and follow traffic regulations to reduce the chances of a car accident injury.

How to Prove a Reckless Driving Charge

To prove if the other driver was recklessly driving, your attorney has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with a disregard for others’ safety and property.

Taking videos and images of the accident scene could help prove your case that reckless driving caused your injuries. Most insurance companies use police reports as an objective measurement of liability for most car crashes. Gather as much evidence as possible to help your auto attorney organize a case for damages.

Common Defenses to Reckless Driving

You may need the assistance of a reckless driving defense attorney to support you. Some defense your attorney could consider are:

  • You were not the driver that was recklessly driving. In some cases, the officer identified the wrong driver, thus a defense attorney may ask questions about the other driver’s actions.
  • You may have been forced to perform dangerous actions at the moment of the accident. You may bring up an emergency (which you did not create) that posed a danger to you or another person.
  • Vehicle malfunctions may have forced your car to move dangerously, causing a vehicle collision. You may need to find an expert witness to prove this point.

Some of these defenses may result in dismissed or reduced charges. Hence, it’s important to speak with an attorney specialized in reckless driving accidents to understand your rights.

Avoiding Aggressive Driving Accidents

Many drivers don’t know they engage in reckless driving, thus, it’s crucial to avoid these habits for the safety of yourself and others. Whether you’re avoiding dangerous driving habits or if you want to avoid reckless drivers, here are some tips to look out for.

  1. Focus on the road. Distracted driving is the leading cause of auto accidents in the United States.
  2. Do not tailgate. The vehicle in front of you may stop without warning, and it’s difficult to react, leading to a rear-end auto accident.
  3. Avoid speeding. States establish speed limits to avoid accidents, however, people disregard them, contributing to over a third of all car crashes.
  4. Remember to signal. Letting other drivers know you’re turning or switching lanes helps communicate where you want to go safely.
  5. Avoid aggressive drivers. Maintaining distance from aggressors can help you avoid accidents.
  6. Drive friendly. If drivers want to merge or turn, it’s polite to let them go to ensure safety.

Overall, it’s important to be mindful of others when driving. Driving recklessly will only cause accidents and endanger those around you.

Find an Attorney to Protect You From Reckless Driving Accidents

LegalASAP can help you find an experienced auto attorney who can protect your rights. We have connections with over 500+ firms working with thousands of experienced attorneys across the United States. We can help you find an attorney suited to your case who specializes in your state.

Fill out a free short consultation form and see if you qualify for a claim. It’s better to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney if your crash occurred due to a driver’s reckless demeanor.

Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at linkedin.com