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Reckless Driving 101

When the safety of other individuals on the road is ignored, it can result in a charge of reckless driving. This disregard for the rules of the road may or may not directly cause an accident or property damage.

Depending on where you live, reckless driving may also be referred to as:

  • Careless driving.
  • Dangerous driving.

Below are details on reckless driving charges commonly issued by most states, as well as the severe consequences you could face should you neglect to drive safely.

Common Reckless Driving Charges

The exact violations resulting from a reckless driving citation will vary according to your state of residence.

In general, driving actions showing negligence or reckless disregard that could result in charges include:

  • Excessive speeding at a velocity that can be considered dangerous.
  • Placing others at danger by running red lights or stop signs.
  • Intentionally failing to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI).
    • In this case, it is possible to be convicted of a DUI/DWI AND reckless driving. Find out more about DUI and its consequences.
  • Racing other vehicles.
  • Evading law enforcement.
  • Passing on a two-lane highway over a double yellow line.
  • Passing a stopped school bus.
  • Texting while driving.
    • Some states have categorized texting while driving that results in the endangerment of others as reckless driving.

Consequences of Reckless Driving

A reckless driving citation and conviction can result in severe penalties. In some states , it may qualify as a misdemeanor offense and stay on your permanent criminal record.

While it depends upon your state, a few of the consequences you could face if convicted of a reckless driving citation include:

  • Fines.
    • Can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  • Jail time.
    • While most states qualify reckless driving as a misdemeanor, other states have more severe penalties resulting in felony charges.
    • License suspension.
    • The length of suspension will vary according to state.
    • Any other traffic violations or suspensions could affect the duration, and may even result in a permanent revocation.
  • Points on your driving record.
    • Will vary according to your state.
    • A conviction usually carries the maximum number of demerit points. For more information, review the DMV points system in your state.
  • Increase in your insurance premium.
    • Premiums can raise over twice the amount you would see with a common speeding violation.
  • Loss of a job.
    • A concern for individuals required to drive as part of their occupation.
  • Denial of security clearance.
    • Can be an issue with military service members or for other government jobs.

If you commit a second or subsequent offense, punishments will become more severe.

Traffic School & Reckless Driving

Depending on the nature of the offense and the decision rendered by the court, attending traffic school—commonly referred to as a defensive driving course—can help offset points from your driving record and possibly lower insurance premiums.

While a reckless driving charge can sometimes make you ineligible to attend driving school, if your state allows a downgrade to a careless driving charge, you may still be able to attend depending on your court's decision. On the other hand, it may be a mandatory requirement without the benefit of point dismissal.

Basic eligibility will depend upon your state, but you generally may be able to attend traffic school if:

  • You possess a valid driver's license that has not been suspended or revoked.
  • You were not driving with a commercial driver's license (CDL).
  • You commit a moving violation that does not result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.

Common violations that result in traffic school ineligibility include:

  • Excessive speeding.
  • DUI.
  • Reckless driving resulting in injury or property damage.
  • Hit and run accidents.

For more information regarding whether you're eligible to take traffic school in your state, check out our guide to defensive driving and traffic school.

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