By: South Sound Law Group

What is the Difference Between Negligent and Reckless Driving?


What is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is defined as “any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

Examples of reckless driving include but are not limited to; drinking and driving, racing on public roads, excessive speeding, wanton, or willful actions that may inhibit your ability to steer or shift your vehicle or to see clearly while driving.

What is Negligent Driving?

Negligent driving in the first degree is defined in Washington state when someone “operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or cannabis or any drug or exhibits the effects of having inhaled or ingested any chemical, whether or not a legal substance, for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.”

Under this statute “Negligent” means, “the failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.”

Examples of negligent driving can include, speeding, not yielding to the right of way, driving erratically, distracted driving, texting, or changing lanes without looking or signaling. Failure to adhere to sign instructions such as yield or stop, running red lights and more are also considered negligent driving. In addition, the driver must exhibit some effect of having consumed alcohol or some other drug. This can be as small as odor or bloodshot eyes.

Reckless Driving is a Serious Offense

Reckless driving is considered a gross misdemeanor in the state of Washington and is taken seriously. Due to the safety concerns that reckless driving can create, it is punished thoroughly and can affect you for years.

Though the maximum jail time for a reckless driving charge is up to a year in jail, you may also face a fine of up to $5,000. Furthermore, you may also need to acquire high-risk auto insurance, which you can assume is at a premium cost to you. If you are found guilty of reckless driving you will lose your driver’s license for thirty days at minimum, depending on the details surrounding the charge.

Negligent Driving is a Misdemeanor in Washington

Negligent driving in the First Degree is lower in penalties and consequences than reckless driving, but is still taken very seriously by the state of Washington. With a constant concern for safety because of accidents happening every day, the penalties for negligent or reckless behavior are not taken lightly.

The penalties for negligent driving in the first degree in Washington are up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Depending on circumstances, you may be required to be on probation, get an interlock ignition installed on your car, be required to attend alcohol treatment or classes, and more. Negligent Driving in the first degree is considered a lesser offense of a DUI.

Negligent driving in the second degree, is an infraction, and can result in a minimum penalty of $250. With additional charges, the fines for negligent driving can increase significantly and affect your driving record for years to come.

What is the Main Difference Between Negligent and Reckless Driving?

One of the main differences between negligent and reckless driving is the mental state the government must prove. Reckless driving is defined as willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving shows an understanding of the risks and consequences of one’s actions and disregarding that risk, choosing to move forward regardless.

Negligent driving on the other hand occurs when someone fails to be aware of a substantial risk that something may occur and that failure is a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation. Negligent driving is considered less severe than reckless driving because acting recklessly involves knowing you could harm someone with your actions and doing it anyway.

When investigating officers will consider all of the details surrounding the incident, including road conditions, traffic patterns, the driver’s actions, and whether anyone was hurt or any property was damaged. They will try to establish whether the driver knew the risk that their actions were dangerous and if there were any mitigating factors.

How Can Negligent or Reckless Driving Affect a Car Accident Case?

Whether or not the cause of a car accident was negligent driving or reckless driving can have a significant impact on both a criminal case and a civil lawsuit. This differentiation is important because any party to a lawsuit must prove the driver failed to act within the standard of care while operating a motor vehicle.

How Can an Attorney Help Me With a Reckless Driving Charge?

There are a number of ways to attack a reckless driving charge, and a skilled attorney will know how best to do this and can help you understand your options. For example, the government must have probable cause to prove the reckless driving charge. Without proof of probable cause, there may be an option for a valid defense. Reckless Driving charges are often very fact specific and may rely on witness statements and expert evidence. Often, a driver’s own statements are the best evidence an officer or prosecutor has to charge and convict because the driver will admit to speeding or make another statement against their interest.

Even if the evidence is stacked against you, an experienced attorney can work to achieve other options like getting the charges reduced. This may lessen the effects of a conviction on your driving record and your future.

An experienced attorney is an invaluable asset when facing a charge like these. What’s more, our family of attorneys has over 40 years of experience helping clients with skill, compassion, and grit. You can expect that when you speak with one of our friendly team members at our family owned law firm, you will be treated with respect and you will be heard. We work tirelessly to help clients get their lives back and be able to move forward.

Contact our office today at (253) 383-3328 to learn how we can best assist you. After speaking with us, we hope it will be evident that we treat our clients with professionalism and care. We come to work everyday ready to improve the lives of our clients.

Negligent or reckless driving are both serious charges and should be handled by an experienced traffic attorney. Let us work for you to ensure your rights are protected as well as your future.

Contact us for a no cost consultation to see why we are the firm you should hire. We look forward to serving you and your family.