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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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!
Find Out How to Remove Points on Your License by Taking a Defensive Driving Course.
*This article was updated on 8/3/2020.