Every year, more than 1.25 million people die in accidents on the road. Millions more suffer serious, often life-altering injuries. Many of these injuries and deaths occur due to reckless driving accidents. Unfortunately, all too many people continue to engage in reckless driving behaviors despite knowing they significantly increase their risk of causing a serious accident. If you or a loved one has already experienced a traumatic accident with a reckless driver contact a skilled auto accident attorney to discuss your legal options.
What Is Reckless Driving?
A person who drives any vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, they are considered guilty of reckless driving. In the state of Washington, reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor. A person can be cited for reckless driving if some of the following driving laws are violated:
Traveling at excessive speeds. Most states automatically issue a reckless driving ticket to drivers who travel at speeds well over the posted speed limit. Generally, state law enforcement officers issue these tickets when a driver is traveling more than 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. At least when it comes to Washington Law.
Ignoring traffic laws. Drivers who swerve in and out of lanes may find themselves convicted of a reckless driving offense, as may those who deliberately ignore posted traffic signals or stop signs.
Racing. Reckless drivers may choose to deliberately race their vehicles down roads used by other people, posing substantial danger both to themselves and to anyone else who uses the road. Racing becomes particularly dangerous when drivers take up both lanes of a two-lane road or attempt to cross into the other lane of traffic to gain an advantage.
Passing on a blind curve. Most roads clearly indicate where passing can occur safely with a broken yellow line. On roads with a solid yellow line, drivers should avoid passing one another, even if the front vehicle is traveling excessively slowly. Passing on a blind curve can make it impossible to see oncoming traffic, substantially increasing the risk of an accident.
Ignoring or going around railroad barriers. Railroad barriers exist to prevent cars from moving onto the train tracks as a train passes by. Ignoring these barriers can result in getting hit by a train—and drivers who ignore them without getting hit may quickly face reckless driving charges.
Passing a school bus with its stop sign extended and lights flashing. Any time a school bus extends its stop sign and flashes its lights, it is indicating that children can board or exit the bus. Ignoring this signal can put children in significant danger. Even passing a school bus at a slow rate of speed can leave drivers facing reckless driving charges.
Trying to avoid or outrun a police officer. Some drivers will go to extraordinary lengths to get away from law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, speeding, swerving or engaging in other illegal actions to avoid an officer can count as reckless driving.
Drunk driving. People who drive a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to engage in reckless driving behaviors. In some cases, the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence by itself can result in reckless driving charges.
Distracted driving. Performing an activity that prevents you from giving your full attention to the road is considered distracted driving. These activities could be manual or cognitive, including texting, reading, or eating.
Aggressive driving. Aggressive drivers may choose to vent feelings of frustration or anger while behind the wheel and in doing so, engage in dangerous reckless driver behaviors such as speeding excessively or cutting other drivers off in traffic.
Potential Consequences of Reckless Driving
Reckless driving carries with it a substantially increased accident risk. Traveling at excessive speeds requires a much faster response time and can lead to significantly greater injuries if you do have an accident. Not only that, when you endanger the safety of persons or property by reckless driving, it can carry other severe penalties.
Tickets and fines. If a police officer catches you engaging in reckless driving behavior, especially if your reckless behavior results in an accident, you may receive a ticket and associated fines.
Loss of your license. Driving in exceptionally reckless behavior or engaging in reckless driving behavior on multiple occasions can result in license suspension. In some cases, you may have your license permanently revoked for ongoing reckless driving.
Increased insurance premiums. When you drive a vehicle recklessly, you raise your accident risk, and your insurance company does not want to bear the burden. As a result, your insurance premiums may go up, sometimes significantly, when you get caught driving recklessly.
Difficulty acquiring some positions. If a job requires you to regularly operate a motor vehicle, you may have trouble getting that job after a reckless driving conviction. You may also struggle to gain employment in some government offices or other facilities that require a high level of trust and ethical behavior.
Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Drunk drivers who engage in reckless driving behaviors may be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. This may come with reduced driving privileges, including a restricted license that only allows you to operate your vehicle at specific times or to get to school or work.
Jail time. In some cases, your reckless driving behavior may result in time in jail. You may have an increased likelihood of spending time behind bars if your recklessness led to an accident that caused serious injuries or death.
Avoiding Reckless Driving
As a driver, you bear responsibility to everyone else on the roads to help keep the roads as safe as possible. Each time you get behind the wheel, you help determine the safety of every driver or passenger around you. Are you struggling to avoid reckless driving behaviors? Try some of these strategies.
Refresh yourself on the rules of the road. Improve your familiarity with the Washington Driver Guide. Make sure you understand when you can appropriately pass, the average speed limits on highways and in rural areas, and any other information that could impact your ability to safely navigate Washington roadways.
Slow down. Make note of the speed limit every time you drive, and make a habit of remaining at or below that speed, especially in dangerous weather conditions. If you have a habit of speeding, you may need to retrain yourself to adhere to the speed limit.
Leave plenty of time to arrive at your destination. Often, reckless driving behavior arises out of a sense of being rushed. When you must hurry to reach your destination, you may struggle to drive safely. Leaving plenty of time, on the other hand, can make it easier to avoid reckless driving behaviors.
Pay attention to the road around you. Avoid multitasking or distracted driving, and make a habit of looking at everything going on around you. Observe traffic patterns and other drivers around you. Often, especially in unfamiliar areas, this can prevent you from accidentally engaging in reckless driving behavior.
How to React to a Reckless Driver
While you may control your own driving behaviors, you cannot control how someone else behaves behind the wheel. You can, however, decrease the impact reckless drivers may have on you and your passengers. Try these strategies to help keep you safe from reckless drivers.
If You Get in a Car with a Reckless Driver
Most people do not deliberately get in the car with a driver known for reckless behaviors or impaired driving. If you do know someone has a reputation for driving recklessly, try to avoid riding with them—and after one reckless ride, try to avoid going with them again in the future. When you find yourself stuck in the car with a reckless driver, try these strategies.
Call attention to the behavior. If you notice the driver of your vehicle driving at excessive speeds, swerving through traffic, or operating a cell phone while driving, call attention to it and ask them to stop. Many drivers may fail to take note of their own reckless driving behaviors, especially when distracted or ill, while others will show a willingness to curtail reckless behaviors when asked by their passengers.
Stop the ride. If your Uber or Lyft driver is behaving recklessly, cancel the ride and note the reason for that cancellation in the app. Be sure to leave a review so that future riders know to avoid that particular driver. When in the car with a friend or loved one, let them know that you want to get out. Try not to “wait it out” or “hope for the best” to avoid rocking the boat. Reckless driving often has serious consequences, and you don’t want those serious consequences to be injuries to you or others in the vehicle.
Call for help, if needed. If you find yourself stuck in the car with a reckless driver who will not pull the car over or allow you out of the vehicle, summon help. Call 911 and wait for the driver to get pulled over. You do not have to make yourself unsafe for a ride.
If You Spot a Reckless Driver on the Road
Seeing a reckless driver on the road makes many people tense up, prepared for the driver to do anything. While you cannot stop another driver’s behavior on your own, you can take steps to keep yourself and your passengers safe.
Do not engage the other driver. Resist the urge to, for example, block in a reckless driver so that they cannot pass you. Do not make hand signals or other gestures that could incite anger in the other driver. Road rage can cause even more dangerous driving behaviors or cause the driver to react badly to you and your passengers, including choosing to follow you until you stop to attack you. Instead, continue driving as normally as possible while near the reckless driver.
Get out of the way, if you can. Pull off to the side of the road, if needed, and wait for a reckless driver to pass. Getting out of the way will decrease the odds that a reckless driver will injure you or your passengers. If you notice a reckless driver growing enraged with you, move your vehicle to a safe location. Try not to exit the car until you know that the other driver has moved on to another location or until help has arrived.
Call 911. If you notice ongoing reckless driving behavior and worry about the safety of others on the road, pull into a safe location and call 911 or have one of your passengers call 911. Report the make and model of the car, the license plate number, and your current location. Police officers will take steps to stop the reckless driver.
How Does Reckless Driving Cause Accidents?
Reckless driving can increase the risk of an accident and cause more serious injuries during an accident. As a driver, it can lead to more serious penalties after an accident, including higher fines or loss of your license. If you suffer injuries at the hands of a reckless driving accident, however, the other driver’s behavior may have a significant impact on your case. Consider:
Reckless driving helps determine fault in the accident. If you know the other driver engaged in reckless driving behavior, it may increase the responsibility that the driver bears for the accident. However, if you contributed to the accident through reckless behavior of your own, including speeding or ignoring traffic signs, you may still share liability for the accident, which can reduce the compensation you receive.
An at-fault driver convicted of reckless driving does not change the compensation you receive. The insurance company will typically base the compensation you receive for an accident on the extent of your injuries, any damage to your vehicle and personal possessions, and the coverage offered by the driver’s insurance policy. The driver’s behavior at the time of the accident does not change the compensation you have the right to seek, nor will it change the way the insurance company interacts with you.
Speak with an Auto Accident Attorney
If you suffered injuries in a serious accident involving another driver’s reckless behavior, you may need a car accident attorney. Contact a car crash lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. The sooner you contact Boohoff Law, the sooner they can start working on your behalf, from collecting evidence to negotiating for the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
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April 30, 2023
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