Careless Driving Lawyers

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What Is Careless Driving?

Careless driving is a statutory offense in many states. It is usually defined as a “careless disregard” for the rules of the road, or “driving without due caution.” Careless driving can include a wide range of conduct that may be accidental or unintended, but nevertheless present a danger to drivers and pedestrians.

Some types of behavior that can lead to careless driving charges can include:

The laws governing careless driving can be very different depending on the area you are in. In most states, careless driving charges will result in a traffic citation, a fine, and other measures such as traffic school or mandatory community service.

Is Careless Driving Different from Reckless Driving?

Careless driving is closely related to reckless driving, though it can be a very different offense depending on the state. As mentioned, careless driving is basically driving without the proper caution. On the other hand, reckless driving is usually defined as a “wanton disregard” for traffic laws. This is a much higher standard than careless driving, as wanton requires that the person deliberately disobeyed traffic laws. 

An example of reckless driving is when a person is deliberately running traffic lights because they are racing with another driver. Here, the person is purposely breaking the law, which may be considered “wanton disregard”.

Thus, it is common for reckless driving charges to be reduced to careless driving if the defendant lacked the required mental state for reckless driving.

What Are Some States That Have Careless Driving Statutes?

Only a handful of states have Careless Driving statutes. A few examples of states with careless driving laws are New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Most states do not have careless driving statutes, only reckless driving statutes. Other states may include careless driving under reckless driving.

In states that separate the two charges, careless driving will usually result in a minor traffic citation, which may include a fine and/or traffic school. Reckless driving can result in criminal charges, which may mean higher fines and possible jail time. In general, careless driving is classified as a lesser offense than reckless driving.

Penalties for both careless driving and reckless driving can increase if the violation caused death or serious bodily harm, or if the person is being cited for a repeat offense.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Careless Driving Charges?

Careless driving can sometimes lead to long-lasting legal consequences, especially if the violation caused injury or property damage. Also, legal penalties for careless driving may increase with multiple offenses. If you need assistance with careless driving charges, you may wish to contact a lawyer for advice. Your attorney can represent you in court if necessary, and can help you claim the proper defense.

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Last Modified: 01-22-2014 02:57 PM PST

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