The exact definition of the term “reckless driving” depends on the state in which you’re driving in. For example, in Wisconsin, the statutes involving reckless driving refer to it as the “negligent operation of a motor vehicle” that endangers the safety of others or causes bodily harm. In Minnesota, reckless driving is a person who drives a motor vehicle or light rail vehicle while disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others or their property.
Generally, reckless driving is a more egregious offense than careless driving, indicating a wanton disregard for the safety of others. Some behaviors that constitute reckless driving include:
Street racing is enough of a concern that some states (like Minnesota) specifically mention this driving behavior in reckless driving statutes. Recently, police reported that street racing has become an issue, where groups of racers have organized races on social media and also coordinate to move their activity to other areas as soon as they get word that police are on their way to the area.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 30 people in the U.S. die each day from drunk driving. The deaths and damages related to drunk driving in the U.S. account for an estimated $44 billion each year in costs to society.
Alcohol impairment creates deficits in the skills needed for safe driving. Contrary to popular belief, individuals don’t begin to experience the deficits when they reach the legal impairment limit for driving of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood.
Instead, the deficits begin appearing with the first drink and become more pronounced as the individual continues to drink.
Some of the common deficits that drivers experience because of alcohol include:
- The ability to track a moving target.
- The ability to focus on completing more than one task at a time.
- Reduced coordination.
- Difficulty steering.
- Reduced response in emergency driving situations.
- Difficulty controlling one’s speed, braking, or maintaining a travel lane.
- Difficulty focusing on driving tasks or exercising good judgment.
Driving a few miles over the speed limit is generally considered a minor traffic infraction, not a reckless driving case. However, if a driver is traveling many miles over the speed limit, it most certainly can be considered a negligent operation of a motor vehicle that places others at a substantial and unjustifiable risk of great bodily harm. More than 9,000 people in the U.S. die each year in speeding-related accidents, and excessive speed is the leading factor in fatal car accidents.
Speeding creates hazards for drivers and others on the roadway, including:
- More difficulty maneuvering and controlling the vehicle.
- Less time to perceive a hazard and react to it by depressing the brakes.
- More distance is required for the brakes to pull the vehicle to a complete stop once they’ve been depressed.
- Increased crash severity due to the creation of additional force through speed.
- Reduced effectiveness of the vehicle’s safety features, such as the steel frame, airbags, and seat belts.
Aggressive Driving/Road Rage
Aggressive driving is defined as a “combination of moving traffic offenses to endanger other persons or property.“
Some of the common but dangerous offenses committed by aggressive drivers include:
Many of these behaviors, on their own, may not constitute reckless driving under state laws. However, as the definition of aggressive driving states, driving aggressively involves a combination of behavior, which taken together could constitute reckless driving.
Individuals often use the terms “aggressive driving” and “road rage” interchangeably. They are actually different behaviors, however. Aggressive driving refers to a series of moving traffic violations that are generally committed for the driver to get through areas of traffic congestion. However, road rage refers to moving traffic violations that are committed for the specific purpose of endangering someone’s safety to “punish” another driver.
Some common road rage behaviors include:
- Following improperly (tailgating).
- Illegal driving on the shoulder, in the ditch, on the median, or on the sidewalk.
- Improper passing/ passing on a double yellow or in a construction zone where signs prohibit passing. Aggressive drivers can also change lanes without signaling or without checking their mirrors and blind spots to ensure that the travel lane they are moving to is clear.
- Improper or erratic lane changes.
- Operating the vehicle in a reckless manner, such as suddenly changing speeds.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way.
- Failure to obey traffic signals, traffic control devices, officers, or safety zone traffic laws.
- Making an improper turn, such as a U-turn where prohibited, failing to use a turn signal, or turning when one doesn’t have the right-of-way.
According to a study on road rage conducted by AAA:
- Purposefully tailgating someone in an attempt to make them go faster or get out of the way.
- Yelling at another driver.
- Honking to show annoyance or anger at another driver.
- Making angry gestures at the occupants of other cars.
- Purposefully blocking another vehicle to prevent the driver from changing lanes.
- Deliberately cutting off another vehicle.
- Getting out of the vehicle to physically confront another driver.
- Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose.
- 80 percent of drivers have expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage when behind the wheel in the past year.
- Around half of all drivers admit to yelling at another driver in the past year, and almost as many admit to honking at another driver to show annoyance or anger.
- In one year, about 4 percent of U.S. drivers will get out of their car to confront another driver over a traffic-related issue.
- In that same year, about three percent of U.S. drivers will intentionally bump or ram another vehicle.
The Dangers of Driving Recklessly
Reckless driving not only puts a driver at risk of legal and financial consequences, but also puts others on the road at risk of becoming injured or even killed due to a traffic-related accident.
Here is a brief look at some accidents that can constitute reckless driving:
- Running red lights or stop signs places other drivers at risk of experiencing an intersection crash. One of the most common types of crashes to occur in an intersection is a broadside, also known as a side-angle or T-bone crash. This type of accident occurs when the front of one vehicle makes contact with the side of another, and is most frequently caused by an individual failing to yield the right-of-way. Broadside collisions can result in serious injuries to occupants on the side of the vehicle that was struck. This is due to the vehicle door providing less protection against collision than the steel frame, and is particularly true when there is a large size discrepancy between the vehicles involved in the accident.
- Alcohol impairment can result in any type of accident. One of the most serious types of traffic accidents to be involved in is a head-on collision. Alcohol impairment increases the likelihood of this type of accident, as the alcohol can impair the individual’s judgment and ability to properly identify one-way roads or understand warning signs. Head-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another vehicle that is traveling in the opposite direction. These accidents tend to be extremely serious due to the increased crash severity, caused by the forward motion of both vehicles when they collide.
- Driving excessively fast for the conditions of the road not only reduces the time that a driver has to perceive and respond to danger by braking, but it also reduces the ability of the driver to control his or her vehicle while performing emergency driving maneuvers. This can result in different types of accidents, including often-deadly rollovers that can result from attempting to avoid a hazard in the roadway by swerving.
If You Were Injured by a Reckless Driver, Call a Car Accident Lawyer
If you were injured by a reckless driver, you can obtain compensation for the monetary expenses you have incurred because of your injury, as well as the impacts your injury has had on your quality of life, through a car accident lawsuit. This legal claim in civil court seeks to prove who was liable for the accident and show the expenses and the impacts of the injuries that the accident caused.
Liability is legal responsibility for the accident. To obtain compensation for your injury through the claims process, you must show that someone else was liable.
You show liability by proving:
- The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is best described as the way a reasonable person would act in a set of circumstances. The duty of care that a driver owes to others on the roadway is to operate his or her motor vehicle safely under state traffic laws.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach is the actions that the at-fault driver took that were contrary to the duty of care that was owed. In a case involving an accident that was caused by reckless driving, the reckless behavior would be a breach in the duty of care.
- This breach was the cause of your accident, which resulted in the expenses and quality-of-life impacts you sustained.
The Damages You Can Recover
In the legal arena, the term “recovering damages” means obtaining compensation for harm. Through the claims process, you can seek to recover both economic damages—compensation for expenses—and non-economic damages, which is compensation for the impacts your injury had on your quality of life.
Some common expenses included in economic damage claims include:
Common examples of the type of impacts that appear on non-economic damage claims include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- The cost of repairing or replacing your car that was damaged in the accident.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your injury prevents you from participating in activities you previously enjoyed.
- Loss of consortium, which is a damage collected on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship that is sometimes experienced after a serious injury.
Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Experienced car accident attorneys understand that, in an instant, a reckless driver can destroy lives. These lawyers are devoted to helping the innocent victims of this type of accident obtain the compensation they deserve for the damage that has been done by irresponsible drivers.
Car accident attorneys offer two important services to ensure all individuals injured by someone else’s careless and reckless behavior have access to the legal help they need:
- A free case review, which is time that you have with the attorney to obtain answers to your legal questions and learn more about your options.
- A contingent-fee payment arrangement, which means you do not owe any attorney fees for your attorney’s services unless you recover compensation in your case.
If you were injured by a negligent or reckless driver, you deserve compensation. To learn about your legal options from a skilled car accident attorney, call us toll-free at 1-855-NICOLET
. You can also contact our law firm online
We have diligent lawyers ready to help you with your injury case today. If you are too injured to travel, we can make arrangements to come to you.