What Is Reckless Driving, and What Are the Consequences?

The United States is home to all kinds of drivers. Some take it slow while others take it fast. Unfortunately, on the freeway, we’re all subject to daring drivers who weave in and out of traffic-and, when we’re in a hurry, many of us might even be that driver. Many motorists take risks, but sometimes risky driving leads to reckless driving.

But what is reckless driving, and how can a person avoid participating in it? Below, we’ll discuss the definition of reckless driving, the actions that might be considered reckless driving, the factors involved, and the possible penalties. We’ll also address if reckless driving is connected to DUIs.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is when you’re operating a vehicle with deliberate disregard for your and others’ safety and you don’t care what the consequences are. Essentially, it’s taking serious risks that can potentially harm yourself or other drivers or can possibly damage property.

Reckless driving is also a step above that simple speeding ticket. Going 10 over the speed limit is merely an infraction and punishable by a small fine. But reckless driving is actually a misdemeanor, and it can earn you some time in prison. If you’ve been found driving recklessly, an officer can arrest you and take you to the county jail.

What Actions Are Considered Reckless Driving?

When you think “reckless,” you may think of swerving around traffic or illegally using the shoulders to pass slower vehicles. But a driver can be charged with reckless driving for less than you think.

Even if you stay in the lines and are the only motorist on the road, excessive speeding can earn you a reckless driving charge. Going over the speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more can easily be labeled as reckless driving because you’re putting yourself and any passengers in danger.

You can also be charged for reckless driving for simple acts, such as:

  • Not properly maintaining your vehicle’s lights
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Not yielding to oncoming traffic
  • Trying to pass a slower car on a two-lane highway without adequate visibility
  • Not providing the proper electronic or hand signals when turning

However, remember that reckless driving is the willful disregard for safety. If you accidentally run a red light, it isn’t automatically reckless driving. Accidents happen, and not everyone is a
perfect driver. But if you see the light has just turn red, step on the gas to keep going, and narrowly miss oncoming cars, you can definitely incur a reckless driving charge.

And while it can be tempting to race your best friend in your brand new car, racing through the streets is considered dangerous and reckless. Messing with the radio, chatting on the phone, or texting may also earn you a reckless driving charge if you aren’t paying adequate attention to the road.

So, stay alert, and remember to turn on your turn signals and check your brake lights. Drive safely and take proper care when moving through traffic.

Can Certain Factors Contribute to a Reckless Driving Charge?

Some circumstances may determine the seriousness of a reckless driving charge, or they may simply determine if a motorist is driving dangerously enough to warrant the misdemeanor.

These factors can include the number of other drivers on the road, the weather, the state of the offender’s vehicle, the driver’s understanding of local roads, and much more. So, be sure to consider your surroundings and adjust your driving accordingly.

What Are the Possible Penalties for Reckless Driving?

When you’re charged with reckless driving, your punishment may depend on the seriousness of your offense. You may serve jail or prison time for up to one year, or you may have to pay heavy fines. You can also end up on probation or doing community service.

If an individual and/or another’s property was harmed by your negligent driving, you may also have to compensate the injured individual and/or the owner of the damaged property.

Is a Reckless Driving Charge Related to a DUI Charge?

When a person drinks more than the legal driving limit and then drives, they’re often too inebriated to drive safely. Naturally, it seems logical that they would also be considered a reckless driver, and many who are charged with a DUI hope to have the offense reduced to reckless driving.

However, most states consider these two charges as entirely separate. You don’t need to be drunk to earn a reckless driving charge, and you don’t need to be driving recklessly to get charged with a DUI. In states where these charges are considered distinct and separate, a person that was charged with a DUI and acquitted can be charged for reckless driving, as long as they were driving recklessly at the time.

In some cases, your DUI can be reduced a reckless driving charge, but if a jury is involved and DUI is the only charge, the jury isn’t given the option of reducing the charge to reckless driving.


Even if you drive safely and legally most of the time, it’s easy to make a mistake. You may have been driving just a little too fast on an empty freeway, or you may have simply been distracted¬†by an important call.

If you were arrested and charged with reckless driving, you may be spending time in the county jail while you wait for a formal charge. Don’t stay in jail for longer than you have to; call All Star Bail Bonds. Once you contact us, we’ll work quickly to post your bail and get you home as soon as possible.

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