Reckless Driving Charges

Car Accidents

Reckless Driving Charges

When you get behind the wheel, you accept the immense responsibility of driving safely and of allowing the safe passage of other motorists who share the road with you, but it is not unusual to become irritated by the foibles of other drivers. If you allow this irritation – or anything else – to get the better of you, however, it can put your own (and other people’s) safety in jeopardy and can even lead to reckless driving charges. Take your aggression out on the golf course or on your yoga mat (where things are less likely to become dangerous), and always make driving safely your top concern when you are behind the wheel.

Reckless Driving in Texas

Reckless driving represents a spectrum of dangerous driving activities, but in Texas, the legal definition involves driving a vehicle in a manner that is deemed in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people (or their property), and you do not have to be on a public road to be hit with the charge. Reckless driving can also apply in private spaces, such as in parking lots and parking structures. In the State of Texas, reckless driving goes beyond mere negligent driving (which is plenty dangerous enough) and includes either the intention of causing harm or an utter disregard for the safety of others. If you are charged with reckless driving in Texas, it is a misdemeanor that can lead to fines and to actual jail time. The severity of the charge will be based on the degree of recklessness involved.

The Statistics

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), citing a comprehensive, long-term study put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive or reckless driving played a role in more than half of all fatal crashes from 2003 to 2007. Additionally, excessive speed was the number one indicator in these accidents. To put things in better perspective, speeding was also the primary factor in fatal car accidents in 2019 (playing a pivotal role in more than 17 percent of all fatal accidents that year). Consider the following rankings for reckless driving practices that contributed to fatal car accidents in 2019:

  • Driving either in excess of the speed limit or too fast for the road’s condition accounted for 17.2 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs accounted for 10.1 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Failing to yield the right-of-way accounted for 7.3 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Failing to stay in the proper lane accounted for 6.6 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Operating a vehicle carelessly accounted for 6.5 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Driving while distracted accounted for 5.9 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Failing to obey posted traffic signs, signals, or lights (or an officer’s instructions) accounted for 4.0 percent of all fatal accidents.

  • Operating a vehicle in a generally reckless manner accounted for 3.7 percent of all fatal accidents.

The condition that is cited most often as prompting reckless driving is heavy traffic, which means that many drivers are inclined to allow the stress of congested traffic to push them outside the boundaries of safe driving – thus compounding the dangers associated with heavy traffic in the first place.

Common Examples of Reckless Driving

Some of the most common reasons for being slapped with a reckless driving ticket in Texas include:

  • Driving too fast

  • Putting other motorists in danger by ignoring traffic signs, lights, and signals

  • Not bothering to yield the right-of-way to other drivers or to pedestrians

  • Passing over the double yellow lines on a two-lane highway

  • Racing with other motorists (a dangerous practice that saw an uptick with the pandemic)

  • Attempting to evade law enforcement

  • Texting behind the wheel

  • Driving in a manner that fails to maintain reasonable or appropriate control of the vehicle

  • Passing a stopped school bus that had its stop sign out

If you are one of the many drivers out there who refuse to put their phones down and who shoot texts from behind the wheel, you may engage in reckless driving more than you realize.

Your Reckless Driving Charge

A charge of reckless driving is something of a hybrid misdemeanor charge in Texas – not being classified as either a Class B or a Class C misdemeanor. The consequences of a conviction, however, can be serious and can seriously disrupt your life. Consider the following:

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, it becomes a permanent blight on your criminal record.

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, you face fines of up to $200 and jail time of up to 30 days.

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, your driver’s license can be suspended or even revoked (if you have other traffic violations or suspensions on your record).

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, you will rack up points on your driver’s license.

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, you may be required to perform community service and/or to pay restitution to anyone who was harmed by your reckless driving.

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, you will very likely experience an increase in your car insurance rates

  • If you drive for a living, a conviction of reckless driving can cost you your job.

  • If you are convicted of reckless driving, it can preclude you from obtaining a security clearance.

With more than one conviction on your record, the consequences become more serious.

RELATED READINGS: Understanding Reckless Driving Charges in Texas

Basic Defense Strategies

If you are facing a reckless driving charge, bringing your strongest defense is paramount, and there are a variety of basic defense strategies.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact defense means that the officer is simply wrong in his or her assessment. For example, if you were not driving the car in question, it is a mistake of fact to charge you with reckless driving. Another example of a mistake of fact defense is that you were not driving recklessly, to begin with, and that the officer simply made a mistake. If there is video evidence or if an eyewitness saw the incident transpire, this kind of mistake of fact is less difficult to prove. The fact is, however, that just because an officer claims to have seen you driving recklessly does not make it so, and you have the legal right to defend yourself. Things are not always as they seem, and if there is a mistake of fact involved in your reckless driving charge, it should be explored in terms of your legal defense.

Necessity

Defense of necessity does not deny that you may have been driving recklessly but that you were doing so out of necessity. For example, if you were responding to an emergency with your family, your driving may have been less than safe, but your intention was not to put anyone else in danger – and you did not disregard the safety of others but instead were focused on your family emergency. Additionally, if you were attempting to remove yourself from a dangerous situation – such as getting away from an aggressive driver who was targeting you – the defense of necessity may apply.

Lack of Intent

Another defense against a reckless driving charge is that, yes, you were driving negligently, but there was no intention to harm others involved, and you did not harbor a reckless disregard for the safety of others. Maybe you zoned out or otherwise lost sight of your responsibility to drive safely, but the element of intent simply was not there.

Ignorance of the Law

While you have likely heard that ignorance of the law is no excuse (and this is true in the eyes of the law), being ignorant of the illegality of whatever driving practice that led to your reckless driving charge makes it difficult to prove your intention. Without intention or a reckless disregard for the safety of others, the reckless part of the charge may be dropped.

Every charge of reckless driving is unique to the situation at hand, and building your strongest defense involves addressing the unique circumstances involved and moving forward from that vantage point.

Speeding

Speeding is so closely associated with reckless driving that it pays to take a closer look. The fact is that excess speed makes traffic accidents more likely and increases the risk that these accidents will be deadly. The State of Texas takes speeding very seriously, and if your speed is so excessive that it demonstrates the intention to cause harm or a blatant disregard for the safety of others, it can elevate the charge to reckless driving.

NHTSA Weighs In

NHTSA shares a variety of sobering statistics related to excess speed, including:

  • Excess speed has played a major role in about a third of all fatal traffic accidents for more than the last 20 years.

  • In 2019 alone, speeding contributed to 26 percent of all traffic deaths.

  • Nine thousand four hundred seventy-eight people lost their lives to excess speed in 2019.

The consequences of driving too fast include all the following:

  • You experience a greater potential for losing control of your vehicle.

  • Your stopping distance (upon perceiving a danger ahead) is increased.

  • The effectiveness of your occupant protection equipment, such as airbags and seatbelts, is reduced.

  • The seriousness of any ensuing accident is increased.

Speeding is considered a form of aggressive or reckless driving that is motivated by a variety of factors.

Heavy Traffic

As mentioned, heavy traffic, which is dangerous enough without the addition of recklessness, is the most common variable associated with reckless driving. The inconvenience and stress of congested traffic can motivate some drivers to engage in reckless driving practices, including speeding dangerously.

In a Rush

We have all got places we need to be right now, but failing to plan accordingly and attempting to make up for our tardiness by speeding is not a great solution. At any given moment, many of the drivers on the road are likely in a rush – to one degree or another – to get where they are going, and this fact makes our roads that much more dangerous.

The Feeling of Anonymity

Some motorists revel in the anonymity of getting lost in traffic. The attitude seems to be: why bother doing the right thing and carefully adhering to the rules of the road when I am never going to see these people again, and I am unlikely to get caught? For some, getting behind the wheel is equivalent to being cloaked in secrecy, and they unleash their inner demons.

Lack of Concern

Speeding excessively and other forms of aggressive driving can signal a lack of concern for the law and for the safety of others, which is where reckless driving charges stem from.

Stay Safe out There

NHTSA recommends all the following when it comes to protecting yourself from reckless drivers who speed dangerously:

  • If someone wants to zip past you and you are in the left lane, move to the right and let them pass.

  • Adjust your own driving in response to the reckless driving of others, and if that means exiting the road, it is better to be safe than sorry.

  • Because drivers who speed excessively are more likely to lose control of their vehicles, it is always a good idea to give them as much room as possible.

  • If you believe it is warranted, alert the authorities by calling 911.

Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer for the Help You Need Today

If you are facing a reckless driving charge – or any other criminal charge – Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a criminal defense lawyer with a wealth of experience successfully defending the legal rights of our valued clients – in skilled pursuit of their best possible case resolutions. For more information about what we can do to help you, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.

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