Driving Recklessly, or “Reckless Driving”, is a type of moving traffic violation. It is generally defined by state law as driving with an intention, willful, or wanton disregard for public safety.  It doesn’t have to involve drunk driving, but sometimes the two violations overlap for the same incident.

Common types of driving recklessly include operating a vehicle:

  • At 25 miles per hour or higher above the speed limit
  • Without headlights being on while driving at night or where headlights are required to be on
  • While racing another driver  

In United States law, reckless driving is a major moving traffic violation. Reckless driving is usually a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention.

What are the Factors Reckless Driving?

Courts weigh in a number of factors to determine whether the driver was driving in a reckless manner. This includes:

  • The time of day and whether the drivers driving was safe
  • Weather conditions
  • The presence of other people
  • The driver’s act was beyond mere negligence

Reckless driving is beyond just being negligence when driving. The driver of the car has to act willfully and with neglect for safety and should have known that their driving is unsafe. .

Is Driving Recklessly the Same as Driving Carelessly?

No. Driving carelessly refers to driving without caution. In other words, a driver is not paying attention. Driving carelessly may involve running a red light, distracted driving and failing to use a turn signal.

Although state laws vary in defining reckless driving, some common examples of reckless driving include:

  • Speeding excessively of over 25 miles over the posted speed limit;
  • Tailgating;
  • Illegal passing (for example, passing on a curve or using the opposing traffic lane to pass);
  • Weaving through traffic;
  • Ignoring traffic signs and signals;
  • Driving a vehicle known to have faulty brakes or other dangerous flaws;
  • Racing other cars;
  • Escaping from a police officer after a traffic stop; and
  • Texting while driving.

Is Reckless Driving a Felony?

Whether reckless driving is a felony depends on state law. For example, reckless driving is known as a wobbler in Virginia. A wobbler refers to the fact driving reckless charge can be a misdemeanor or felony. The facts typically dictate the charge and is ultimately decided by the judge. 

In some states, a reckless driving charge increases to a felony when a person’s reckless driving causes serious injury or death to another person. In Virginia, the reckless driving charge becomes a felony if a driver does not have a valid driving license at the time of his arrest.

What are the Penalties for a Felony Reckless Driving Charge?

The punishment for driving recklessly varies from state to state and whether the conviction was an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony. The penalties for driving recklessly usually includes:

  • Imprisonment
  • Probation
  • Fines of $500 or more
  • Drivers License Suspension or Revocation
  • Points on driving record
  • Increase in insurance premiums

Should I Contact an Attorney about a Driving Recklessly Charge?

If your state classifies reckless driving as a criminal offense, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible. Even if your state classifies reckless driving as a driving offense, you can still benefit from the aid of a lawyer. A criminal defense attorney can represent you in court, negotiate a plea bargain, or seek to lower your fines or jail time.