Legally speaking, reckless driving can take many forms, such as through distracted driving, drunk driving, and more. Read on to learn the legal definitions and consequences for reckless driving.
You’ve probably heard that reckless driving is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents in the United States. You’ve seen drivers with road rage, drivers who are speeding, and drivers who have gotten in nasty accidents due to fatigue or cell phone use. But what exactly constitutes “reckless driving?”
New York Ticket Help defines reckless driving as “driving…in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.”
According to this definition, all of the most common causes of car accidents constitute as reckless driving, including:
- Drunk driving
- Eating, putting on makeup, changing the radio station, talking on the phone, etc.
- Driving fatigued
- Tailgating or Crowding
Because this definition is so vague, the law remains subjective. A police officer can pull you over and accuse you of reckless driving for virtually any traffic violation. But although this can damage your driving record, having such a subjective law also makes it easy for lawyers to fight a reckless driving ticket in NY and get you acquitted.
It’s the difference between grading an essay and a math assignment. In math, the answers are black and white. With an essay, the grading is subjective and therefore easier to both condemn and defend. Lawyers will have an easier time getting you off a reckless driving charge than other more-objective traffic violations.
If you have been charged with reckless driving, you face different charges depending on the state in which you are convicted. In New York, for example, you are subject to a misdemeanor conviction and five points on your driving record. That misdemeanor charge goes on your permanent criminal record, even if all you were doing was talking on your cell phone.
Is this really fair?
When you consider how many accidents are caused by reckless drivers annually, putting a misdemeanor on your record might not seem like an unfair exchange for the risk.
Accident Statistics for Reckless Driving
Here are some of the statistics for accidents caused by reckless driving in the United States.
- 1.6 million per year for cell phone use, according to the NSC
- In 2011, 15% of all fatal crashes during the week were due to drunk drivers, a statistic that increased to 31% on the weekends (Madd.org)
- 30% of car accidents are attributed to speeding
All of these numbers could be significantly decreased if people would pay more attention to the road and be more willing to follow the rules of the road.
What Causes Reckless Driving?
So, what exactly causes people to drive recklessly? It’s certainly not a desire to get into an accident, and neither is it people deliberately trying to break the law.
The increasing number of cars on the road every year has resulted in an increased number of accidents. More cars on the road, particularly in congested areas, means higher likelihood of drivers getting frustrated or distracted, with more potential to get into an accident.
Three of the most common reasons to drive recklessly are:
- Aggression. Driver frustration leads to excessive tailgating, unsafe lane changes, cutting off other vehicles, and even an epidemic of “road rage” as one reckless driver frustrates other drivers.
- Distraction. Distracted driving such as using cell phones demands the driver’s attention, which can make it difficult to react to unexpected road conditions in time to prevent an accident.
- Impairment. Driving impaired can mean anything from driving without glasses or proper medication (or just after taking medication) to drunk driving.
Driving only when you feel emotionally sound and mentally “with it” will significantly reduce your chances of driving recklessly (or falling victim to another reckless driver). Avoid the fines and marks on your driving record and do your part to make the road a little safer.
About the author: A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica Oaks loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.