Drivers must drive safely and respect others around them to avoid accidents. However, reckless drivers often drive as if the rules don’t apply to them, engaging in dangerous driving behaviors and putting everyone’s lives, including their own, at risk.

But what exactly is reckless driving, and what exactly does driving recklessly entail? Continue reading to learn more about reckless driving, the dangers, and the consequences. If you believe reckless driving caused your car accident, consult a car accident attorney in Palatka immediately.


Understanding the Definition of Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving

In general, reckless driving is driving in a manner that shows disregard for the lives and safety of others. The exact legal definition varies by state, as most states have their own specific definition of reckless driving.

For example, Florida law defines reckless driving as driving “any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This is only one example of how states might define reckless driving.

Most states’ reckless driving statutes are similar, but some are more detailed. For instance, in some states, reckless driving includes the dangerous operation of scooters or bicycles, hazardous riding of animals, or specific locations where risky driving would be considered reckless.

Is Reckless Driving Illegal?

Most state laws address reckless driving, defining it as criminal behavior. Reckless driving is illegal in most states. Not all states refer to the act as reckless driving, as others call it careless driving or dangerous driving.

Regardless of the name, it normally means the same thing.

How Fast is Too Fast?

Driving faster than the posted speed limit is not legal. Speed limits are set for specific reasons, representing the safest driving speeds for that location and roadway. State law varies, but some states consider it reckless driving when a person drives a determined number above the speed limit.

Generally, in most states, driving 15 to 36 miles per hour more than the posted speed limit constitutes reckless driving. Also, in other states, driving between 80 to 100 miles per hour can constitute reckless driving, regardless of the speed limit in the area.

Speeding is the number one indicator of reckless driving. Driving too fast significantly increases the likelihood of accidents. Speeding also makes it easier for a driver to lose control of their vehicle, which causes a much stronger impact in a collision. Driving at excessive speeds is dangerous for speeding drivers and others on the road.

Reckless Driving vs. Road Rage

Often, people confuse road rage with reckless driving. While the two share some similarities, they differ. However, road rage may lead to reckless driving for some.

Everyone deals with road rage at some point. One study estimated that more than half of all drivers have experienced road rage while on the road. Road rage often arises when a person is stuck in traffic or provoked by another driver. Road rage itself is not illegal, but it can escalate to a serious degree.

When a person drives recklessly, they usually do so with a knowing disregard for others’ safety. Road rage doesn’t always elevate to such an extent, as angry drivers act purely out of frustration. Therefore, irate drivers and reckless drivers often operate with different motivations.

Still, when a person experiences uncontrollable anger, it can result in reckless driving and accidents. This is why, when a person is prone to road rage, take proper steps to calm down and de-escalate the situation. Intense road rage can eventually result in serious collisions, injuries, and property damage.

Behaviors Associated With Reckless Driving

Aside from speeding, a reckless driver can engage in many dangerous driving behaviors. The following factors may apply when determining whether a driver was operating their vehicle recklessly.

Weaving In and Out of Lanes

To beat traffic and try to get to their destinations faster, reckless drivers often weave in and out of lanes. Usually, they do so without signaling first, which often causes rear-end and side-swipe accidents. Weaving between lanes can be risky, especially in areas with excessive traffic congestion.


Drivers should always leave space between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them. Tailgating involves following vehicles too closely, which increases the risk of rear-end collisions.

Following a car too closely is illegal in many states, with state law requiring drivers to leave reasonable space between vehicles. Leaving very little space between cars can be dangerous, especially in high-traffic situations. Tailgating is normally intentional, especially when drivers weave in and out of traffic lanes.

Running Red Lights and Stop Signs

Running Red Lights and Stop Signs

Often, reckless drivers believe they are above the law. That’s why they frequently feel comfortable running red lights and stop signs without hesitation.

Failing to stop at a red light or a stop sign can be dangerous for everyone on the road, particularly because oncoming traffic often doesn’t have time to stop and avoid the collision.

Failing to Yield

Under certain circumstances, drivers must legally yield to other drivers and pedestrians. For example, drivers must yield to emergency vehicles, pedestrians when they have the right of way, and oncoming traffic when making a left turn. 

Because reckless drivers tend to disobey the law, they commonly fail to yield in situations where they should.

Racing Other Vehicles

Racing other vehicles is never a wise idea, as it can put all participants and innocent victims at risk of harm. Vehicles race each other any time of day, but many races happen late at night when fewer vehicles are on the road. Still, many races are intense, and someone often ends up hurt.

In some states, racing constitutes reckless driving, and a person could face criminal repercussions.

Driving Under the Influence

It is a well-known fact that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in every state. Impaired drivers, even if minimally impaired, cannot operate a vehicle in the same capacity as they can when completely sober. Alcohol and other substances significantly affect a person’s mind and body, causing slowed reaction times, loss of judgment, and weakened vision, among others.

Across all states, the legal limit blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent. In some states, if you’re under the influence but not impaired enough to get charged with a DUI, you can face a charge for reckless driving instead.

Driving While Distracted

Distracted driving is a substantial issue, especially with the increase in popularity of smartphones. Driving requires a person’s full attention, but when they become distracted to some capacity, they’re more likely to cause accidents.

People can become distracted while driving in many ways, including texting, talking on the phone, eating, and grooming. Anyone caught driving while distracted might face a charge for reckless driving, as inattention can put others at risk.

Evading Police

In many states, like Florida, fleeing from a law enforcement officer is considered reckless driving. Even if police officers were not trying to stop you for anything related to reckless driving, if you actively try to evade police, you could face reckless driving charges. Fleeing from police often requires dangerous driving techniques, like speeding and weaving through lanes.

Penalties for Reckless Driving

Because reckless driving is illegal, drivers charged with the crime can face serious penalties. Consequences for distracted driving depend on the circumstances, including state law, the person’s history, and whether their actions resulted in a collision. Repercussions are more severe when reckless driving causes bodily harm and/or death.

Penalties for reckless driving can include:

  • Fines: Depending on state law and the severity of the situation, fines might range from $50 to $1,000 or more.
  • Jail time: Reckless drivers can spend time in jail, from just a few days to 12 months. Drivers who cause death face even more jail time.
  • License suspension: A reckless driver can have their license suspended, either immediately due to the nature of the crime or from excessive points on their license if their state adds points for a reckless driving conviction. 

Along with criminal penalties, reckless drivers may face other hardships, like increased insurance premiums. A reckless driver who causes harm can also face civil liability for the victim’s related expenses and losses.

Reckless Driving Can Cause Extensive Injuries

Whenever a reckless driver engages in risky driving behaviors, they increase the chances of causing accidents. A reckless driving collision can result in serious, life-changing injuries for those involved. Some of the injuries often associated with reckless driving accidents include the following.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a vital part of the body. It runs from the base of the skull to the lower back. It is responsible for carrying signals from the brain throughout the rest of the body. When the spinal cord suffers trauma, it can severely affect a person’s life in both the short and long term.

Depending on the area of the injury, a victim can experience:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Body temperature disruptions
  • Problems breathing
  • Changes in sensation
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

In the most serious cases, a spinal cord injury can result in paralysis, either paraplegia or quadriplegia. In many cases, suffering a spinal cord injury changes a person’s life entirely.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Accident victims are regularly at risk of suffering traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). When the brain hits a solid object, or the body or head experiences a violent jolt, the brain can suffer damage. A traumatic brain injury can change the way the brain functions, whether in the short or long term.

Common TBIs include concussions, hemorrhages, and diffuse axonal injuries. The symptoms of a brain injury depend on the severity of the injury and the affected area of the brain. Still, common symptoms include headaches and dizziness or more serious issues like memory problems and loss of consciousness.

In the most severe cases, a TBI can result in permanent brain damage. Additionally, a TBI victim can end up in a coma for a long period or a permanent vegetative state.

Internal Injuries

Internal Injuries

Not only can the body suffer trauma on the outside, but the inside of the body can also sustain injuries. Depending on the specifics of the collision, a victim can suffer internal injuries, including internal bleeding or damage to organs.

Internal injuries are trickier than obvious, visible injuries as they don’t often produce immediate, noticeable symptoms. An accident victim may not know they’ve sustained internal trauma until much later, which can contribute to the worsening of their condition and other complications.


Crash victims can also end up with different types of burns. Cars often catch fire, and when a victim can’t get out of the car quickly enough, they can sustain burns.

In addition, when airbags deploy, they can cause chemical and friction burns, usually on the arms or face.

Amputation Injuries

Some injuries cause extensive, irreparable damage, requiring amputation. Accident victims might need surgery to remove fingers, arms, or legs. This may happen in a crush injury, as these injuries can permanently harm muscles, nerves, and tissue.

Reckless Driving Can Also Result in Fatalities

Sometimes, the impact from a reckless driving collision is too great, and the injuries are too extreme, resulting in fatalities.

Families that suffer a loss as a result of reckless driving can have legal recourse by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. The financial recovery from a wrongful death case can cover the monetary and non-monetary losses caused by the senseless act, including funeral and burial costs, lost earnings and benefits, and pain and suffering.

Steven A. Bagen, Palatka Car Accident Lawyer
Steven A. Bagen, Palatka Car Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a reckless driving collision, you may have legal options. Speak with a skilled local car accident attorney right away, as time is limited to take action. A lawyer can help establish the reckless driver’s negligence and get you the best possible case result.