What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

AUTHOR: A.J. Bruning | December 2, 2023
What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

Most states consider reckless driving any action that shows a willful disregard for others’ safety. These are not simple mistakes like driving five miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Instead, reckless driving generally involves an egregious, blatant risk to others’ safety.

When someone drives recklessly, they increase the risk that an accident will happen. If you or a loved one become the victim of a reckless driver, you can hire an St Louis car accident attorney to seek fair compensation from the negligent motorist.

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State-by-State Reckless Driving Statutes

Each state defines reckless driving in its criminal statutes or traffic codes.

What Is Considered Reckless Driving

Examples of specific reckless driving statutes include:

  • Missouri: Missouri law does not specifically refer to reckless driving but instead penalizes driving in a careless and imprudent manner, including driving at excessive speeds that put others at risk of harm. 
  • Illinois: Illinois traffic laws criminalize reckless driving when someone drives with a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of others on the road.
  • Florida: The Sunshine State’s laws define reckless driving as operating a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. The statute specifically cites fleeing law enforcement officers as a form of reckless driving.
  • California: California Vehicle Code Article 1§ 23103 states, “A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

As you can see, different states have similar definitions of reckless driving. Though legal penalties for reckless driving vary by state, each state condemns reckless drivers with potential misdemeanor and felony offenses (depending on the details of the alleged reckless driving).

Every state comes down hard on reckless drivers. When motorists use high-powered vehicles to endanger the safety of others, they must pay for their reckless actions.

Examples of Reckless Driving

Vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds and can move at more than 100 mph are potentially lethal when a motorist acts recklessly. Some of the most common types of reckless driving include:

Excessive Speeding

Reckless forms of speeding may include:

  • Driving at speeds far over the legal limit (say, ten miles per hour or greater)
  • Speeding in a school zone
  • Speeding in a construction zone
  • Speeding in dangerous weather conditions

In a recent year, speeding contributed to 29 percent of traffic deaths. For this reason, law enforcement officers are within their rights to crack down on reckless forms of speeding.


Racing with other vehicles qualifies as reckless driving because it:

  • Requires motorists to drive at excessive speeds (which is, in and of itself, a form of reckless driving)
  • Generally requires motorists to weave around other vehicles
  • Increases the likelihood that the racing motorist will lose control of their vehicle
  • Increases the likelihood of an accident occurring

Street racing can qualify as reckless driving even when a road appears vacant.

Drunk Driving

Motorists who drive while intoxicated may:

  • Have slowed response times
  • Be less able to control their vehicle
  • Be more likely to make impulsive decisions
  • Have false confidence about their ability to operate the vehicle while speeding, racing, or engaging in other dangerous behaviors
  • Be more likely to fall asleep while driving the vehicle
  • Be far more likely than a sober motorist to cause an accident

The dangers of drunk driving are extreme and well-documented. About 37 people die every day in the United States alone because of drunk drivers’ negligence.

If a drunk driver caused an accident involving you or a loved one, their reckless actions are grounds for you to file a lawsuit.

Drugged Driving

Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any impairing substance, including legal or illicit drugs, is reckless. Motorists may become tired, impulsive, or dangerous for other reasons when they take one or more drugs and then drive.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is any action that:

  • Takes a driver’s hand(s) off the wheel
  • Takes a driver’s eyes off the road
  • Takes a driver’s attention off the act of driving safely

Texting, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, taking photos or videos, and engaging in distracting conversations can all qualify as reckless driving.

Illegal Passing

While passing vehicles is an essential driving act, it is not always a safe act. 

Passing may become a form of reckless driving when a motorist: 

  • Passes a stopped school bus
  • Passes when lane markings indicate a no-passing zone
  • Passes when oncoming traffic makes it dangerous to do so
  • Passes without being 100 percent sure that it is safe and legal to do so

Illegal passing is especially dangerous, as it can cause a head-on collision.

Weaving Through Traffic

Weaving through traffic is reckless because it involves dangerous actions.

When someone weaves through traffic, they may:

  • Speed
  • Tailgate
  • Fail to use turn signals
  • Fail to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles

This form of reckless driving can result in rear-end accidents and other collisions.

Failing to Stop for a Law Enforcement Officer as Soon as Possible 

Those who evade law enforcement officers (knowingly or not) may face a charge of reckless driving. Such evasions can result in high-speed chases that cause motor vehicle accidents, property damage, injuries, and even deaths.

Failing to Obey Traffic Signals

Motorists who knowingly run stop signs, red lights, and yield signs are reckless. Those who fail to move over when they see stopped vehicles on the side of the road are also reckless.

What to Do When a Reckless Drivers Strikes Your Vehicle or a Loved One’s Vehicle 

Reckless Driving

Law enforcement officials charge motorists with reckless driving because reckless driving increases the risk of injury and death (and, of lesser concern, property damage).

If a reckless driver causes an accident that results in injury (or death) to you or your loved one, you may:

  1. Receive medical care as soon as possible, documenting every step of your treatment course
  2. Hire a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation for your accident-related damages
  3. Refrain from making any recorded statements (including to insurers) until you have hired a lawyer

While it is your choice to hire an attorney after a motor vehicle accident, consider your limitations. You may lack the financial means, physical strength, or psychological willpower to handle your case to the best of your abilities.

By hiring an attorney, you can allow a law firm to use its financial means, experience, legal training, and personnel to build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me Seek Compensation for a Reckless Driving Accident?

A car accident lawyer will handle every step of your reckless driving accident case. Though each case is unique and demands different duties of a lawyer, an attorney’s common responsibilities include:

Securing Evidence of the Defendant’s Recklessness

Useful evidence may include:

  • A police report detailing the accident
  • Any citation documenting reckless driving
  • Video footage of the accident
  • An expert’s reconstruction of the collision
  • Photographs of vehicles damaged during the accident

Evidence tells the story of an accident, and each piece of evidence is a key piece of the puzzle. Your attorney will waste no time gathering all available evidence and preparing that evidence for settlement negotiations.

Handling the Administrative Aspects of Your Case

When you hire a lawyer after a reckless driving case, the lawyer handles even the smallest details of your case.

Some of the most important administrative duties include:

  • Dealing with insurance representatives who may have a motive to violate your rights
  • Paperwork, which must be accurate, filed promptly, and filed with the right parties
  • Ensuring that the claims process or legal process moves forward quickly
  • Fact-checking
  • Arranging settlement negotiations, court appearances, and other case-related appointments

The smallest error can derail an insurance claim or lawsuit. Therefore, having an attorney and legal team handle your case’s details can ensure a positive outcome.

Detailing Your Damages (and Calculating Their Cost)

Your lawyer will seek proof of your accident-related damages, and such proof may include:

  • Medical images of injuries (such as X-rays and MRIs)
  • Medical bills
  • Proof of lost income
  • Invoices for vehicle repairs
  • Doctors’ testimony about your injuries and treatment needs
  • Mental health experts’ testimony about your pain and suffering
  • Invoices for mental health treatment

Each victim of reckless drivers has different damages. Your lawyer will work with your unique damages, seeking documentation for each.

With full information about your current and future damages, your attorney will calculate the value of a fair settlement.

Negotiating a Settlement With Liable Parties

Once your lawyer has organized evidence of negligence, proof of damages, and a calculation of your damages, they can negotiate a settlement.

Your lawyer may need multiple rounds of negotiations to secure a fair settlement offer. Sometimes, a fair offer never comes (despite a car accident lawyer’s best efforts). In these cases, an attorney may decide to proceed to court.

Proceeding to Court, if Necessary

Court is an option in every reckless driving case, but it is not the most common outcome. Settlements are more common, as settling minimizes risk and expenses for all parties.

There are many circumstances when going to court benefits an auto accident victim. If your lawyer does not receive a fair settlement offer, they can discuss taking your case to court. Your lawyer will lead your case if you decide to go to trial.

Are Reckless Drivers Financially Responsible for the Accidents They Cause?

A reckless driver is generally financially responsible when they cause an accident. If they are insured, their insurance company may bear the financial burden of the accident.

In some cases, a reckless driver (or their insurer) is not the only financially liable party. For example, you can hold a restaurant liable if it overserved a diner and that driver later caused a drunk driving accident.

Your lawyer will identify parties with liability for your accident. Your attorney will then fight for the compensation you deserve.

What Damages Can I Seek Money for After an Accident With a Reckless Driver?

Motor vehicle accidents are an unexpected hardship that can cause severe financial, physical, and psychological stress. Specific damages from your accident may include:

car accident

Pain and Suffering

Pain-and-suffering is a common type of non-economic damage that car accident lawyers seek compensation for. Though this damage does not always have an explicit financial value, lawyers calculate the value for their clients.

Pain and suffering can include:

  • Physical pain
  • Psychological distress
  • Emotional anguish
  • Diagnosed conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Scarring
  • Disfigurement
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance misuse problems
  • Lost quality of life

A motor vehicle accident can have an intense, long-lasting effect on a victim. Your lawyer will work with mental health professionals to diagnose the toll of your accident.

Lost Income

If you can’t work after your accident with a reckless driver, your professional damages may include:

  • Lost income (which can be permanent when an injury is disabling)
  • Diminished earning power
  • Missed chances to earn bonuses and promotions
  • Lost psychological benefits of working

Your attorney will determine the exact financial value of your professional damages.

Property Damage

Your attorney will determine the cost of replacing a totaled vehicle, cell phone, clothing, and any other property damaged during the accident. If your vehicle can be repaired, your lawyer will determine the cost of those repairs.

If you need temporary transportation while you are without a vehicle, your lawyer will account for the cost of a rental car.

Healthcare Costs

Your attorney will include all of your accident-related medical bills in your lawsuit or insurance claim. When injuries result from a motor vehicle collision, the cost of care can reach tens of thousands of dollars (or even more).

Anthony Bruning
St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer, Anthony Bruning

Do Not Wait to Hire Your Reckless Driving Accident Lawyer

The sooner you hire your lawyer, the sooner they’ll begin working on your behalf. Your attorney needs to draft and file your case as soon as possible to meet the strict filing deadline for your lawsuit.

Once you hire a lawyer, you can focus on your rest and recovery. Your attorney should provide regular updates so you will always know the status of your case.

A.J. Bruning


I was born and raised to represent individuals who have been needlessly injured. I mean that literally. At a young age my father would tell me about the clients he was representing. I would meet them and take pride in their admiration of my father. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and represent clients that needed my help.

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