Whenever you see another driver behaving dangerously on the road, you may feel that their behavior qualifies as reckless driving. However, legally speaking, the definition of reckless driving is narrow. For a driver’s behavior to rise to recklessness, it must include major moving violations that show willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.
What Are the Penalties for Reckless Driving?
The penalties for reckless driving may vary by state. Reckless driving can leave a driver legally liable for any damage caused by those behaviors.In addition, drivers may face:
- Up to 90 days in jail for the first conviction
- A fine of between $25 and $500 for the first conviction
A second reckless driving charge in Florida, on the other hand, can result in more substantial penalties, including up to six months in jail and a fine of between $50 and $1,000.
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What Behaviors Count as Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving includes a variety of potentially dangerous behaviors.
The faster a driver speeds, the more reckless the behavior becomes. At high speeds, a driver has a much harder time controlling their vehicle, which endangers everyone around them. Speeding can also increase the severity of an accident: at high speeds, an accident has more force behind it, which may cause more substantial injuries for everyone involved.
To qualify as reckless driving, the driver must reach “excessive speeds.” Speeding between 30 and 49 miles per hour over the speed limit is usually classified as a misdemeanor in Florida and may count as a reckless driving charge. Speeding 50 or more miles per hour over the speed limit could result in felony charges.
Minor tailgating or getting a little too close to the driver in front of you may not qualify as reckless driving. On the other hand, excessive or dangerous tailgating may qualify for a reckless driving charge. Tailgating that involves riding the bumper of the car in front may make it difficult, if not impossible, for the reckless driver to avoid a collision if the front driver slows or stops. Many drivers tailgate to push the front driver to move faster or get around that driver.
Even drivers whose tailgating is not reckless may bear liability for an accident caused by those behaviors.
Sometimes, you may need to swerve abruptly. You may need to avoid something in the road, for example, or get out of the way because another driver drifted into your lane. On the other hand, swerving for no reason may qualify as reckless driving.
Reckless swerving may occur for a variety of reasons. A reckless driver may swerve in and out of traffic to reduce drive time or swerve all over the road as a method to prevent other drivers from passing: using both lanes of traffic, for example.
Reckless swerving can also occur due to other driver negligence. Drivers under the influence may have a hard time keeping their vehicles safely in their lane of traffic, while drowsy drivers may start to drift off, crossing lanes and jerking back when they awake. Distracted drivers also often have a more challenging time steering their vehicles, which may increase the risk of swerving and causing an accident.
Aggressive techniques often qualify as reckless. Aggressive drivers frequently engage in a variety of dangerous behaviors. They may swerve through traffic and speed, but they may also behave aggressively toward other drivers, including trying to run drivers off the road, issuing threats, or deliberately colliding with another vehicle.
Aggressive driving may result from road rage or a driver’s hurry. Frequently, drivers begin engaging in aggressive behavior after another incident on the road, such as a traffic slowdown or another driver’s dangerous or negligent action.
Even minor distractions can pose severe accident risks out on the road. On the other hand, immense distractions can prove even more problematic. Often, drivers who suffer from a high degree of distraction will pay more attention to the distraction than the road.
Consider, for example, a driver who spends more time and energy flipping through music on their phone than paying attention to the road. They might take their full attention away from the road for extended periods while searching for music. Likewise, a driver trying to put on makeup or send a text message could end up causing a severe accident while distracted.
Late Lane Changes or Exits
Sometimes, a reckless driver may abruptly take a dangerous action. For example, a driver may miss an exit or need to change lanes suddenly. Some drivers may attempt to force their vehicles across lanes, even though it poses a danger to drivers around them. Often, other drivers struggle to react to those dangerous maneuvers, resulting in a collision.
Why Do Drivers Engage in Reckless Behaviors on the Road?
Reckless driving may occur because of:
Often, reckless driving results from road rage and anger on the road. That road rage may emerge as a direct result of the actions of another driver or due to traffic jams and other hazards on the road. Many people struggle with anger, especially when they feel that adhering to traffic rules will make them late.
Drunk drivers often lose the inhibitions that, under normal circumstances, would lead them to remain safe on the road. Furthermore, intoxicated drivers may have a hard time with vital decision-making skills. They may prove more likely to engage in dangerous behavior because they disregard the associated danger and potential consequences. Furthermore, drunk drivers may experience tunnel vision, making it more difficult to pay attention to other drivers’ behaviors.
Some drivers engage in more reckless behavior as they struggle with falling asleep behind the wheel or becoming drowsy. Drowsy drivers may suffer some of the same loss of inhibitions as drunk drivers. As a result, they may have a hard time determining how to navigate safely. They may also fall asleep behind the wheel, leaving the vehicle out of control to potentially cause an accident.
Some drivers behave recklessly on the road for fun. They may have an inaccurate view of their capability behind the wheel and feel that they can safely navigate while engaging in reckless behaviors, despite the danger to other drivers. These reckless drivers may speed, make sharper turns, or get too close to other drivers to keep the adrenaline flowing while behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, a moment’s distraction or unexpected response from another driver can result in a severe collision, often causing substantial injury.
The Consequences of Reckless Driving
In many cases, reckless driving has more substantial consequences than the driver realizes when they decide to engage in reckless driving.
Reckless driving substantially raises the odds of an accident.
Reckless drivers frequently cause accidents. Other drivers may have a hard time accurately predicting the behavior of those reckless drivers, which may make it more difficult for them to avoid a collision. Other drivers may also try to get away from a reckless driver, ultimately causing an accident in the process.
Reckless driving can increase the severity of injuries associated with an accident.
In many accident scenarios, drivers have the opportunity to reduce the severity of the accident. Turning away from a collision, slowing down, or choosing where the driver wants to make contact can all influence the accident’s severity.
Unfortunately, reckless drivers may not have adequate time to respond to a potential accident scenario, making it impossible to take those mitigating actions. Furthermore, reckless drivers might engage in behaviors, including speeding, that increase the severity of the injuries caused.
A reckless driver on the road may cause an accident between other drivers.
Many drivers do not know how to react when encountering a reckless driver. They may have to swerve away to avoid a collision or come to an abrupt stop to stay out of the way. Other drivers may panic, causing them to behave in unpredictable ways.
In some cases, those behaviors can lead to a collision between otherwise safe drivers. Suppose, for example, that a reckless driver causes another driver to slam on their brakes. The car behind them may hit before that driver has the chance to react. Likewise, suppose that a reckless driver swerves toward another lane of traffic, nearly causing a sideswipe collision. If the driver in the adjacent lane swerves, it may lead to a collision with the vehicle in the next lane.
Reckless driving can increase traffic delays.
Many drivers believe that engaging in those reckless behaviors can help save time and get to a destination faster. In reality, however, reckless drivers often lead to traffic jams. Other drivers frequently slow down or change direction to avoid a reckless driver slowing traffic.
Often, swerving through traffic and unpredictable driving behavior will save little time and may cause traffic to slow for everyone. Furthermore, if a reckless driver causes a collision, it will make it very difficult for that driver to reach his destination—and block traffic.
Contact a Lawyer After a Reckless Driving Accident
If you get into an accident with a reckless driver, you may need an attorney to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. The police officer that responds to the scene might not know that the other driver engaged in reckless, dangerous behavior, especially if you do not have witnesses to testify.
On the other hand, an attorney can help show that the other driver’s behaviors qualify as reckless and that you deserve substantial compensation for any injuries you sustained.
A lawyer can help you manage the legal process after a reckless driving accident. Contact a car accident attorney to learn more about your rights and how to pursue the compensation you deserve from a reckless driver.