Each state has its own definition of reckless driving, as well as varying consequences for this unsafe behavior. Choosing to operate your vehicle in such a way that it puts people and property in harm's way can earn someone anything from fines to jail time.
Legal Examples of Reckless Driving
The majority of states don't include specific reckless driving behaviors in their statutes. Instead, they expect that law enforcement officials will take into account all the surrounding factors, including traffic, road conditions, the presence of pedestrians, and other circumstances. There are, however, a few examples of specific behavior included in state laws.
There's no denying that speeding is dangerous, and if you're over the speed limit by a lot, you could get more than a ticket. In many locations, driving more that 20 or 25 miles per hour over the limit is considered reckless driving. When you go this fast, you are willfully endangering other people. According to an MIT complication of state traffic laws, the following states consider excessive speed to be reckless driving:
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Passing on a Hill
As you approach a hill on a two-lane road, you can't see whether traffic is coming in the other lane. This makes passing very dangerous.
Most states don't actually define passing on a hill as reckless driving, but Virginia does include this specific example in its statutes. In other states, this risky behavior would still be likely to get you a citation for reckless driving, especially if your choices caused an accident.
Fleeing a Law Enforcement Officer
When a police officer tries to pull you over, you're legally required to comply. Refusing to pull over can result in a variety of consequences, depending on the circumstances and the laws of the state. In most states, refusing to pull over isn't part of the reckless driving statute. However, Florida law clearly includes fleeing a law enforcement officer in its definition of reckless driving.
Racing your car on a public roadway is dangerous, and in many states, it is likely to be considered reckless. However, at least two states clearly include racing in their reckless driving statutes. In Virginia and Washington, if you race your car, you can be convicted of reckless driving.
Reckless Driving Behaviors
Although very few states include specific examples in their laws, there are certain behaviors that can put you at great risk for a reckless driving citation no matter where you live. They include:
- Speeding in a school zone
- Performing stunts, such as "donuts," with your car on public roads
- Aggressive driving or road rage
- Blocking other motorists
- Ignoring safety rules
Consequences of Reckless Driving
Injuries, fatalities, and property damage are natural consequences of choosing to drive in an unsafe way. In addition, many people convicted of reckless driving face some or all of the following:
- Suspension of driver's license
- Fines of up to $1000
- Time in jail
- Criminal record
In addition, people convicted of reckless driving face increased insurance premiums. According to Forbes, a reckless driving conviction results in, an average, a 22% increase in the price you'll pay for car insurance.
Not Worth the Risk
No matter how much of a hurry you're in or how tempting it might seem to engage in a risky behavior behind the wheel, reckless driving simply isn't worth the risk. Although most states don't offer clear examples of reckless driving, they do prosecute motorists who willfully endanger others. You can avoid these consequences by driving safely.