What is the Difference Between Reckless and Careless Driving?

What is the Difference Between Reckless and Careless Driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 85% of fatal rollovers are single-vehicle accidents, meaning the driver lost control of the vehicle because of speeding or looking away from the road; one third of all fatal auto accidents are caused by drunk drivers; and 40% of all traffic accidents involve the use of a cell phone. The one thing in common about these crash statistics is that they could all be avoided if people treated driving with more respect and attention. The truth is that most fatalities can easily be avoided.

If you have been injured in a car accident by someone else’s dangerous driving, and you see the charge of careless or reckless driving, you may be wondering what each means. Many times, another’s irresponsible driving may seem reckless, even though the lesser charge of careless is given. For example, if someone is texting on the freeway and causes you and others serious bodily injury or death, it is unlikely that the negligent driver will receive a charge of reckless driving. But how is that possible? What they knowingly and purposefully did was incredibly reckless, it was no mistake, and it caused others great amounts of suffering, right? Well, the law has a different definition of reckless than in normal, everyday use.

Careless Driving

To differentiate careless and reckless driving, we will start out with explaining what careless driving entails. Careless driving, or driving without due caution includes a broad range of traffic offenses that may be accidental but present a danger to other drivers and pedestrians. Examples of careless driving include speeding (up to a degree, then it becomes reckless); improper merging, drifting, or failing to yield; distracted driving such as using a cell phone, eating, applying makeup, or searching for something in the backseat; failing to use proper signals; or disobeying traffic signs. In the end, it is up to the court to differentiate between carelessness and recklessness. However, reckless driving is a much stricter punishment and therefore much harder to get in many cases. Careless driving usually results in a fine, citation, and possibly driving school or community service.

Reckless Driving

The definition of reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor and a much larger charge than careless driving, is somewhat vague. To sum it up, the law states that reckless driving is defined as those who operates a vehicle in a manner that unreasonably interferes with other road uses or endangers them. This could easily carry over to careless driving, but the difference is the word “unreasonably.” Reckless driving is driving in a manner that shows lack of sympathy or caring for others. It is endangering other road users without any valid excuse and with full knowledge of just how dangerous or risky one’s driving behavior is. People know how dangerous texting or talking on a handheld device while driving is though, correct? Yet they still do it and it is still charged as careless driving. A person may be charged with reckless driving by failing to yield, excessive speeding, doing donuts, illegally passing a school bus, or failing to use proper turn signals. These sound an awful lot like some of the examples of careless driving. There is a large overlap between the two charges, and it is up to the district attorney and court to decide between the two in each individual case. If you or a loved one have been injured by a careless or reckless driver, contact an experienced car accident attorney today.

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