Every day around 100 people in the U.S. die in an auto accident. It’s a pretty grim statistics, especially considering that most of those deaths were unavoidable.
Research shows reckless driving is a factor in 33% of U.S. car accidents involving a fatality. What’s more startling is a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety poll that found 87% of drivers engage in reckless driving. That means almost every driver at some point is driving recklessly. Distracted driving is by far the most common form of reckless driving today with 70% of drivers admitting to being distracted behind the wheel.
The type of vehicle a person drives and where they are driving can make a difference. Insurify conducted research that found owners of a Mazda MX-5 Miata are the most likely to get a ticket for reckless driving. And if you live in Virginia the chances go up. Virginia has the highest rate of reckless drivers (68.6 out of 10,000 drivers), which is 279% higher than the national average.
But don’t think states with fewer drivers means there’s less reckless driving. Even though there are fewer people on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic, reckless driving has gotten worse. The Governors Highway Safety Association found that with fewer people on the road drivers are getting more lax, speeding at a higher rate and driving more reckless in general.
It’s up to each and every driver to understand what is reckless on the road and take steps to avoid dangerous behavior every time you get behind the wheel.
Examples of Reckless Driving
The basic definition of reckless driving is driving that shows irreverence or indifference for the safety or property of others. In some states, mental state is also a determining factor. For other states, certain violations are considered inherently reckless. This can include:
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Racing other vehicles
Passing on blind curves
Swerving and cutting in and out of lanes
Passing school buses with their stop signs down
Going around railroad barriers
Running a red light or stop sign
Reckless driving can also involve the physical state of the driver as well as the safety precautions that they take outside of operating the vehicle. Even failing to use a seatbelt properly can be considered reckless driving.
Here are a few recent real-world examples of driving behavior that’s considered reckless:
Recently in Utah, Indiana, Colorado and Nebraska there’s been an uptick of people speeding 100 miles per hour or faster. The fastest speed limit in those states in 70-75 miles per hour.
Drowsy driving is reckless driving. A video showing a Tesla driver barreling down the highway asleep is an eye-opening reminder of why you need to avoid getting behind the wheel if you’re tired. Even with Tesla’s autopilot feature sleeping is not safe. A few years ago another distracted Tesla driver with the autopilot feature on crashed into a fire truck. Luckily no one was seriously injured, but the Tesla was destroyed.
If you think impaired driving isn’t a problem unless the driver is 21 or older think again. Just last month a 15-year old in Charlotte, NC was charged with reckless driving and felony death by vehicle after it was determined she was driving while intoxicated and speeding.
The dangers of reckless driving go well beyond public roads. In 2019, a soldier rolled a military tactical vehicle at West Point Academy killing a cadet and injuring 19 others. The soldier was found guilty of negligent homicide due to reckless driving.
Reckless Driving Laws and Facts
As with all driving laws, what’s considered reckless driving varies from one state to the next. In many states, reckless driving is often labeled a misdemeanor crime, not a simple traffic violation. It’s a charge that will go on your permanent driving record.
If you’re not sure what is and isn’t deemed reckless driving in your state take a few minutes to look it up on the local DMV or DPS website. As the laws below show, there are some driving behaviors you may never guess would fall under the reckless driving umbrella (and a few that should be obvious).
- Fleeing from the police qualifies as reckless driving in Florida (and several other states).
- In Hawaii, the reckless driving laws include “reckless riding” of an animal.
- In Illinois, reckless driving includes intentionally making a vehicle airborne.
- In Louisiana, if you fall asleep at the wheel and someone dies, that qualifies as reckless driving.
- In Minnesota, racing is reckless driving even if you are racing below the speed limit.
- In Nevada and New Hampshire, you don’t have to be driving at all to be guilty of reckless driving. Organizing an unauthorized race on a public highway merits fines and/or jail time in Nevada. In New Hampshire, don’t even think about betting on who has the faster car between two friends. Betting on unauthorized races is illegal too.
- In Tennessee, best not pop a wheelie on your motorcycle unless you don’t mind getting popped for reckless driving. Exceptions are granted to people in parades driving less than 30 mph.
- In Virginia, driving more than 80 mph is considered reckless. (And that’s six points to your DMV record!)
The best rule of thumb is to consider anything outside of driving by the rules of the road to be reckless. This includes any type of aggressive driving or being impaired even the slightest. Drive like you’re taking the license exam and you should be fine!
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*This article was updated on 8/3/2020.