Reckless driving is a severe traffic violation that involves driving a motor vehicle while disregarding the safety of other individuals. Reckless driving means that the individual was aware that operating a motor vehicle in that manner could be very dangerous, but they did so anyway despite the risks.
Reckless driving may involve the following:
- Excessive speed;
- Abrupt lane changes;
- Running red lights;
- Other risky driving behaviors.
Reckless driving is a criminal violation that can result in the following:
- Suspension or revocation of the individual’s driver’s license.
Reckless driving laws in the United States vary by state. In general, however, they prohibit driving in a way that endangers the life, limb, or property of another individual.
In several states, for example, reckless driving may be punished if an individual drives at an excessively rapid speed for the circumstances or who drives with a reckless disregard for the safety of others. In certain states, reckless driving is a traffic infraction.
In the State of Washington, however, reckless driving is more serious than a traffic infraction.
What Classifies as Reckless Driving?
What is categorized as reckless driving will vary based on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case. In some locations, reckless driving is classified as a traffic violation or minor criminal misdemeanor, similar to a traffic ticket.
In these jurisdictions, an individual may face fines and points on their driver’s license. In other jurisdictions, however, reckless driving is classified as a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor is more serious than a traffic violation. It is punishable by jail time as well as the suspension or revocation of the individual’s driver’s license.
In rare cases, reckless driving may be prosecuted as a crime, especially in cases where the actions of the driver resulted in significant harm or death to another individual.
A felony reckless driving conviction may result in harsh punishments, which may include years in jail and large criminal fines. It is important to note that whether reckless driving is categorized as a traffic infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony will depend on the following:
- The circumstances of the incident;
- The severity of the conduct;
- The existence of any aggravating factors, for example, alcohol or drug use.
An attorney can help with determining the possible categorization of a reckless driving charge as well as advise an individual of the possible consequences of a conviction.
What Are the Factors for Reckless Driving?
There are various actions that may lead to a charge of reckless driving, including, but not limited to the following:
- Excessive speed: Driving too quickly for the circumstances or exceeding the set speed limit is considered irresponsible driving;
- Unsafe maneuvers: If an individual endangers others, makes sudden lane changes, passes unlawfully, or engages in other dangerous driving habits, it may be characterized as reckless driving;
- Ignoring traffic signals and signs: Failure to obey red lights, stop signs, and other traffic signals and signs may be deemed reckless driving if it endangers other drivers.
There are also other examples of actions that may be considered reckless driving if it endangers other drivers, including the following:
- Cutting off other vehicles; or
- Engaging in road rage behavior.
What Are Some of the Most Common Examples of Driving Recklessly?
Common examples of irresponsible driving that may be reckless driving include the following:
- Tailgating: Tailgating another vehicle is considered irresponsible driving since it increases the likelihood of a collision;
- Street racing: Racing illegally on a public roadway is classified as dangerous driving because it endangers other vehicles, passengers, and pedestrians;
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is defined as engaging in activities that divert a driver’s attention away from the road, for example, using a mobile phone.
Driving under the influence of alcohol while driving recklessly, referred to as wet reckless driving, may be charged instead of a drunk driving conviction in some cases. Wet reckless driving is still considered to be a significant crime that can cause a defendant to face the following:
- The suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.
How Does Washington State Define a Reckless Driving Charge?
In Washington State, reckless driving is charged as a gross misdemeanor. This crime involves driving in a willful or complete disregard for the safety of other individuals or property in addition to driving at high speed or erratically.
What Are Some Types of Reckless Driving in Washington State?
In Washington State, examples of reckless driving that may result in criminal charges include the following:
What Are Some Factors That Could Get Me Charged With Reckless Driving in Washington State?
An individual may face criminal reckless driving charges from many factors, for example:
- Weather conditions;
- If other individuals were in the area at the time the defendant operated their motor vehicle;
- The defendant’s driving was considered beyond negligent;
- The time of day the driver was driving recklessly.
What Is the Penalty for Reckless Driving Charge?
In Washington State, reckless driving is considered to be a serious traffic offense. Because it is charged as a gross misdemeanor, a defendant who is convicted may face one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In addition, if an individual is convicted of reckless driving in Washington State, the Washington Department of Licensing will suspend their driver’s license for 30 days. There may be defenses that an individual can present to mitigate the penalties that result from a reckless driving charge.
The facts of the case will determine what remedies may be available. An individual’s lawyer can advise them of the best options for defenses in their case.
If an individual witnesses reckless driving, they can report the conduct to law enforcement to help lessen the danger of reckless driving. Reporting information to law enforcement can be done by dialing 911 and reporting the conduct or providing the information to law enforcement using a website or app.
It is important for the individual reporting the reckless driving to be as detailed as possible, for example, by providing the following:
- The make and model of the vehicle;
- The vehicle’s license plate number;
- A description of the hazardous driving conduct.
An individual can help keep their community safe by reporting reckless driving and lowering the chance of vehicle crashes and other hazardous driving issues.
Will My Car Insurance Go Up if Convicted of Reckless Driving?
Yes, if an individual is convicted of reckless driving, an individual may face an increase in their car insurance premiums.
Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Reckless Driving Charge?
Yes, if you have been charged with reckless driving in Washington State, an individual should consult with a Washington traffic violation lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you on how to fight the charge as well as to avoid severe criminal penalties.
Your reckless driving lawyer can present any available defenses and represent you in court. Your lawyer will investigate the evidence against you and develop the best possible plan to minimize or, possibly, dismiss the charges against you.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecution and obtain a plea bargain or plea agreement. Having an attorney on your case is your best chance at avoiding the harshest penalties for reckless driving.