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Careless Driving vs. Reckless Driving

Have you ever seen a driver make some risky moves on the road? If so, you may have heard others refer to this behavior as careless or reckless driving. For a lot of us, these terms are interchangeable. However, in California, the only term you need to know is reckless driving. Unlike other states, California laws only recognize reckless driving as a traffic offense. While careless driving could be used to describe someone’s inability to pay attention to the road, it’s technically not a punishable offense in the state.

What Constitutes Reckless Driving?

According to California Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving is defined as operating a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons and property around you. Objectively speaking, any person driving a vehicle 15 miles-per-hour (mph) over the speed limit could be charged with reckless driving. For example, if a driver decides to switch lanes numerous times while traveling 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, it could be considered reckless driving. This is especially true if the lane changes result in a collision.

What Is the Punishment for Reckless Driving?

In California, the penalty for reckless driving is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to three months in county jail.  At a minimum, a person would have to pay a fine of $145 and/or a sentence of 2 days in county jail. Regardless, the punishment for a reckless driving charge can be steep. Even if you avoid spending time in jail, it will still show up on your driving record.

How Long Does Reckless Driving Show on Your Record?

In California, reckless driving can show up on your driving record for up to 10 years. Having a judge decide to drop your charges is the only way to remove reckless driving from your record indefinitely. Otherwise, you could face higher insurance premiums for the next decade.

Is Reckless Driving a Felony?

It can be. However it depends on the severity of the case and, ultimately, the prosecutor. For instance, if your reckless driving presented a dangerous situation but didn’t result in any injuries, you might be tagged with a misdemeanor. However, if your reckless driving resulted in numerous injuries or fatalities, the prosecutor could decide to charge you with a felony.

Have you been injured by a reckless driver? If so, it’s important to find legal representation by Sacramento’s best personal injury lawyer. At Elliot Reiner, APLC, our team is prepared to advocate for any driver or passenger that was injured as the result of reckless driving. We’ll be happy to go over your circumstance and find the best solution possible. Since reckless driving can jeopardize someone’s life, we’ll do everything we can to obtain compensation for your injuries.  

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