Since the onset of COVID-19, many behaviors throughout society have changed. Not all of these changes are for the better. For example, reckless driving practices such as speeding remain higher than before.
Though each state has its language when defining the act of reckless driving, it generally refers to driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving is commonly considered a more egregious sibling to careless driving, which results in many types of negligence-born traffic accidents.
Common Examples of Reckless Driving
Many types of driving behaviors can be considered reckless, as they are committed with little thought of the consequences, including the potential for harm and criminal punishment. Suppose an individual is charged with reckless driving.
In that case, the offense is often considered a misdemeanor criminal offense rather than a traffic offense a distinction that means the difference between the negative implications of having a criminal record or having a black mark on one's driving record. Here is a look at some common examples of what it means to drive recklessly.
As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the federal agency tasked with overseeing traffic safety in the U.S. speeding accounts for more than 11,200 deaths a year, or around one-third of all fatal traffic accidents in the country.
Excessive speed increases the risk of an accident occurring because:
- It deprives the speeding driver of the time they need to notice a hazard on the roadway and respond to that hazard by applying the brakes.
- It increases the distance the vehicle will travel after the brakes have been applied as the brakes work to slow and eventually stop the vehicle's weight from moving forward.
- It makes it difficult for other drivers to determine a safe gap in traffic in which to enter the travel lane.
Traveling slightly over the speed limit can net the driver a careless driving traffic ticket. Exceeding the speed limit by at least 15 miles an hour over the posted limit can result in reckless driving, particularly if an accident occurs because of excessive speed.
In the hierarchy of driving offenses, it is generally preferable for a person caught driving while impaired by alcohol to be charged with reckless driving rather than a DUI. In many states including Illinois, the fines and potential incarceration involved are very similar.
However, a DUI charge often results in the revocation of the offender's driver's license. At the same time, reckless driving generally does not provide the offender has not had previous reckless driving convictions in their recent driver history.
Additionally, suppose an individual has previous DUI convictions. In that case, they will likely be motivated to enter into a plea deal for reckless driving to avoid mandatory court supervision and other consequences that escalate with subsequent convictions. Traffic offenders often avoid court supervision if possible, as any violation of the sentencing terms can result in the offender being re-sentenced for the crime.
Racing Another Vehicle
Street racing is a growing and dangerous problem in cities across the nation. For example, the Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance that calls on law enforcement to immediately impound vehicles found racing and ups the penalties for racing in the city to between $5,000 and 10,000 per offense.
These new rules were passed to reduce reckless street racing and the torment experienced by residents of the neighborhoods where racing is common.
“One of those cars spins out of control, a whole crowd can be taken out,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “So we want to encourage people to be smart about using vehicles.”
Eluding the Police
Reckless driving is almost always a companion to using a motor vehicle to run from law enforcement, either when attempting to avoid a traffic stop or attempting to get away after committing a crime. When an individual is evading arrest or other consequences by eluding police, they are seldom focused on anything but avoiding capture, including their duty as a driver on public roadways to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm to others.
Police departments and even state legislatures often have policies or laws that spell out when an officer should pursue a suspect and when they should avoid it to protect the public. The pursuit will only be continued if the suspect poses a greater threat to the health and safety of others if they remain free than the safety threat posed by pursuing a reckless driver through busy roadways.
Failing to Obey Traffic Control Devices
In every state, drivers must follow traffic laws to operate their vehicles on public roadways safely. Each state has laws that require drivers to yield the right-of-way to roadway users in other lanes of travel at certain times, including at a red light or a stop sign. Willfully running a red light or a stop sign without regard for the potential of an accident occurring in the intersection is commonly regarded as reckless driving.
Aggressive Driving Behaviors
Aggressive driving is a series of hazardous behaviors generally exhibited when the driver is angry or annoyed with traffic or is trying to escape a congested area on the roadway. Some of these behaviors, such as speeding and red light running, have already been mentioned.
- Tailgating involves following another vehicle too closely to have ample opportunity to come to a complete stop if the lead car suddenly slows or stops
- Brake-checking is a common, albeit inappropriate, response to tailgating in which the driver in the lead car deliberately slams on their brakes to either make a tailgating driver slow down and give a little distance or cause the tailgating driver to rear-end them
- Improper passing includes passing a vehicle with a solid double yellow line, indicating that passing is prohibited, passing a vehicle on the sidewalk, or using a turn lane to pass a vehicle
- Weaving in and out of traffic, commonly known as threading traffic, without proper use of a blinker to indicate to other drivers that a lane change will occur
- Deliberately blocking cars that want to turn or change lanes
- Using one's headlights to punish other drivers for perceived slights that occurred in traffic
- Speeding up when another driver attempted to pass
- Road rage behaviors include yelling, honking, or gesturing at other drivers, throwing objects at other vehicles, attempting to force another vehicle off the road, or deliberately bumping or ramming another vehicle in traffic
The most common type of aggressive driving involves excessive speed. Nearly half of the drivers who participated in a AAA survey reported that they had traveled at least 15 mph over the speed limit on the freeway. Thirty-four percent of drivers surveyed admitted to tailgating.
Seeking Compensation if a Reckless Driver Injures You
Reckless driving is more than just a traffic offense. In most places, it is also a crime. Unfortunately, it is the cause of many fatal and injury accidents across the country. Suppose you have been injured due to an accident caused by a reckless driver. In that case, the personal injury claims process can be used to seek compensation for your injury's financial and psychological costs.
This process commonly begins when you hire an experienced car accident attorney to help you with your claim. While an attorney is not required to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process, having one is crucial for obtaining the maximum compensation available for you. An attorney brings experience and understanding of the process to your claim. Your attorney's legal team can also help with a lot of the legwork involved in considering and collecting the evidence needed to prove your claim.
Investigating the Accident
One of the early services a car accident attorney performs for their client after an accident caused by a reckless driver is a thorough investigation of the accident. This investigation can help the attorney determine all sources of liability for the accident and all associated auto liability insurance policies that can be accessed to compensate for the claim.
Valuing Your Claim
After you've reached maximum medical improvement- when your physician determines that you have likely made all meaningful recovery for the injuries sustained in the accident, even if treatment continues- your attorney will establish a value to your claim.
This value is based on:
- The at-fault party's insurance. Policy limits frequently affect the value of personal injury claims.
- The actual out-of-pocket expenses you incurred, such as the cost of medically treating your injury as well as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving when the accident occurred, wage loss for the period in which you were too injured to work, and even lost earning capacity if you acquired permanent disabilities as a result of the accident that will impair your ability to earn an income.
- The severity of the injury you incurred. More severe injuries result in more intense medical treatment, frequent doctor's appointments, chronic pain, and a higher psychological impact.
- The level of recklessness exhibited by the at-fault party. In many states, claimants are permitted to seek punitive damages. This type of compensation is awarded not to pay for the expenses or impacts of the injury but rather to financially punish a driver for extreme recklessness exhibited at the time of the accident.
Negotiation With the at-Fault Party's Insurance Provider
When the claim's value has been determined, your attorney will submit a demand to the at-fault party's insurance provider for payment of the claim. The insurance provider can either accept the demand and process the claim for payment, deny the claim and notify you and your attorney of the reason for the denial, or make an offer to settle the claim out-of-court for less than the demanded value.
If the insurance provider chooses to offer a settlement, the amount of their initial offer will almost always be far below the claim's value. Your attorney can negotiate on your behalf to convince the provider to increase their offer. If the provider fails to compensate the claim, it can be filed as a personal injury lawsuit for a judge or jury to determine liability and compensation.
Proving Liability for the Accident
Proving liability is the cornerstone of a successful reckless driving accident injury claim.
Here are the elements you must prove through evidence and witness testimony:
- The at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable actions on the roadway to avoid causing harm to others. This duty included driving safely and obeying all traffic laws.
- A breach in the driver's duty occurred when they took reckless and illegal actions that were contrary to avoiding causing harm to others.
- This breach resulted in an accident in which you were injured. Your injuries resulted in the incurrence of expenses and non-economic impacts.
After your claim, your settlement or award proceeds will be sent directly to your attorney. Because of the contingent fee billing method used by personal injury attorneys, your legal team will not receive payment for their services until the compensation is received. Once they have been paid and have assisted you in settling any medical liens placed on your compensation, they will release the remainder of the settlement or award to you.
Were you injured in an accident caused by a reckless driver? If so, contact a car accident lawyer near you for your free case evaluation.