What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

If you suffered injuries because of a reckless driver, contact a Long Island personal injury lawyer today.

According to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1212, reckless driving is driving or using a motor vehicle to unreasonably interfere with the free and proper use of the roads or unreasonably endanger others. Under this law, reckless driving is prohibited and people violating this provision are guilty of a misdemeanor.

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Examples of Reckless Driving

Given that broad and vague definition under New York vehicle and traffic law, here are some specific examples of reckless driving and how it causes traffic accidents. All Long Island drivers should stay aware of other drivers’ erratic and careless driving behaviors to prevent an accident. And if the worst happens, and you or a loved one are injured by a reckless driver, reach out to a Long Island car accident lawyer.


Traveling at a rate of 20 miles or more over the posted speed limit is considered reckless driving in many states. Traveling over 80 miles per hour on any road can also result in a reckless driving charge. It is at the discretion of the law enforcement officer writing the ticket whether or not a reckless driving charge or even an aggravated reckless driving charge is added to the speed limit violation.

Driving Under the Influence

Drunk driving is a serious offense that can constitute reckless driving. In New York, a first offense DWI typically leads to a license suspension that revokes a person’s driving privileges for six months or more. Drunk drivers often cause tragic accidents that lead to serious injuries and even death.

Driving in the Wrong Direction

Sometimes, a careless motor vehicle driver goes down a one-way street without paying attention to the directional signs. This act of reckless driving leaves the driver going against the regular traffic flow and heading into oncoming traffic, a highly dangerous and reckless situation.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is among the fastest-growing causes of traffic accidents. When drivers use cell phones, navigational systems, entertainment systems, or are eating, applying makeup, and engaged in active conversations, their focus is taken away from their driving.

According to the CDC, about 3,000 people die every year in crashes with distracted drivers. One in five of those who died were either pedestrians or bicycle riders.

Swerving In and Out of Traffic Lanes

Some drivers seem never to be happy with their lane, moving back and forth between lanes at high speed, and often without a signal. This reckless driving conduct is more than mere negligence because it can lead to accidents that leave the crash victims with life-changing injuries.

Striking or Nearly Striking Pedestrians

A driver who hits a pedestrian can face civil and criminal consequences. The driver can be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries and face criminal penalties for reckless driving. Since pedestrians virtually never wear any protective gear, such an accident can result in catastrophic injuries.

Failure to Observe Traffic Signs or Signals

States will fine drivers who recklessly disregard traffic signs and signals and award them two points on their license.

Running a Police Barricade

Whether police set up a sobriety checkpoint or a barricade for other purposes, failing to stop is reckless driving.

What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

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Penalties for Reckless Driving

In New York, there are serious consequences for reckless driving offenses including:

Getting a Criminal Record

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal offense, and it can even be a felony. Having a criminal record makes getting a job, going to college, and accessing housing more difficult for the rest of your life. It will leave you with a permanent criminal record.

Paying Steep Fines

The potential fines escalate with each additional reckless driving offense. The minimum for the first offense is $100. The maximum for a third offense is $1,125.

Serving Jail Time

Even a misdemeanor reckless driving charge is more likely to include jail time than most other traffic offenses. For a first offense, the penalty can be up to 30 days in jail. For a third offense, the potential sentence is up to six months.

Paying New York State Surcharges

When a person is convicted of reckless driving, they will also be required to pay a state surcharge. The mandatory surcharge for a person convicted of a misdemeanor criminal offense is $175 and $300 for a felony.

Paying the Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee

New York drivers who get 6 or more points of violations in 18 months get assessed a fine called the Driver Responsibility Assessment fee (DRA) to be paid over a period of three years. The DRA is $300 plus $75 for each point above six. A reckless driving ticket is five points, so there’s not a lot of room left to avoid this fee.

Getting Points on a Driver’s License

In New York, reckless driving is five points on the driver’s license for each conviction.

Potential Driver’s License Suspension

Criminal judges have a great deal of discretion in suspending someone’s driver’s license from a reckless driving conviction. This suspension can easily happen from just a few traffic violations. For example, one reckless driving citation plus two red light tickets at 3 points each equals 11 points. Any driver with 11 or more points against their license will suffer a license suspension by the DMV.

Other Impacts of Reckless Driving Charges

In addition to the penalties imposed by New York State, there are additional consequences for driving a motor vehicle recklessly. These can include:

Insurance Premium Increases

Most moving violations will impact your auto insurance premiums. Your car insurance rates after a reckless driving ticket may increase anywhere from 19% to 115% depending on your car insurance company. In New York in 2022, the average rate increase was 39% for drivers convicted of reckless driving. Also, since a reckless driving ticket is a criminal offense, the reckless driving charges can affect homeowners’ and life insurance premiums.

Job Applications

Having a criminal record can negatively impact your employment prospects. Since a reckless driving conviction is a criminal conviction, you must report it on any job application that asks if you have a criminal record unless the form specifically only requests felonies. In that case, if your reckless driving conviction was for a misdemeanor, then you need not report it.

School Applications

Most colleges request information about criminal convictions on their standard applications. Given the highly competitive nature of seeking a university place or scholarship, having a criminal conviction on your record can significantly impact your ability to achieve your academic goals.

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Underage Reckless Driving

An underaged driver without a license can receive citations both for the unlicensed driving and driving recklessly if the facts support that charge. Even though the underaged driver has no license for points to be charged against, other penalties will apply to the underaged driver. First, the criminal misdemeanor will show up on background checks forever. This record can adversely affect the underaged driver’s future employment and educational opportunities.

The underaged driver will pay up to $600 in fines for the two offenses and may even face 30 days in jail. Further, this conviction will impact the individual’s insurance premiums when they finally get a license, if the state lets them get one at all.

Reckless Driving for the CDL Driver

Commercial drivers face all the penalties imposed by New York for reckless driving. They also face the potential loss of their CDL license, necessary for many occupations. Generally, a CDL suspension does not result from the first offense of reckless driving, but a second offense within three years will result in a CDL suspension for 60 days. A third offense in three years will cause a 120-day suspension.

Accidents and Injuries Caused by Reckless Drivers

If a reckless driver hit your car and you suffered serious injuries, you can hold the driver liable for your losses. Losses include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. The criminal case will not do much to compensate you for your losses. Instead, you need to file an injury claim with the driver’s insurance company, and you should have a car accident lawyer handle this process for you.

Evidence of Negligence

If the driver received a reckless driving conviction, this can be an important piece of evidence to prove their negligence and liability. Even if a driver does not get convicted of reckless driving, you can still prevail in a civil claim to recover financial compensation for your injuries. Your lawyer can present other evidence of the careless driver showing willful disregard and dangerous driving that led to the crash.

Punitive Damages and Reckless Driving

The law makes it extremely difficult to obtain punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit. The legal standard is such that the underlying conduct must have demonstrated such disregard for the safety of others as to virtually constitute intentional misconduct. However, even that standard implies that some conduct will justify punitive damages. In a car accident case, much of that conduct overlaps with the conduct that comprises reckless driving.

You may seek punitive damages for accidents caused by:

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

Since the dangers of drunk driving are extremely well-known, drunk driving accidents are often sufficient justification for an award of punitive damages.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, even some legal drugs, will be viewed the same as driving while using alcohol. This risk makes these cases likely candidates for punitive damages as well.

Excessive Speeding, Street Racing, or Sideshows

Driving at excessive speed creates tremendous risks and disregard for the safety of everyone else on the road. Street racing or sideshows, in which the drivers put their desire for thrills ahead of the safety of others, also creates excessive risk. All of these dangerous behaviors are likely candidates for punitive damages because of their high levels of reckless disregard for the well-being of others.

Talk to a Car Accident Attorney Today

If you suffered injuries in an accident where the driver of the other vehicle may have been driving recklessly, you should consult with an experienced Long Island car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Settlements involving reckless driving require careful handling and negotiations by a lawyer. Even with a reckless driving conviction against the other driver, insurance companies will still try to limit the settlement they pay. Don’t try to handle these matters on your own.

Filed Under: Car Accidents Distracted Driving Personal Injury

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