Both reckless driving and negligent driving behaviors are responsible for thousands of accidents every year. While each of the driving behaviors that are associated with reckless and negligent driving may result in similar injuries and damages, that doesn’t mean they are exactly the same. The main difference between the two is that reckless driving may be considered a crime, while negligent driving is typically a civil traffic offense.
What’s the Difference Between Reckless Driving and Negligent Driving?
Reckless driving behaviors are unlawful and unsafe and are carried out with a disregard for the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. Drivers who engage in reckless driving are aware that they are taking dangerous actions behind the wheel. They have taken unnecessary risks in areas where the chances of injuries or damages are high such as a crowded freeway. Due to the willfulness and intention behind the driver’s action, reckless driving is typically considered a crime.
Here are some examples of reckless driving:
- Excessive speeding
- Street racing
- Cutting off other vehicles
- Speeding when pedestrians are present
- Texting and driving
- Making a lane change without looking or yielding the right of way
- Running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs
Consequences of reckless driving
In Washington State, reckless driving is considered a serious criminal traffic offense. As a gross misdemeanor, a reckless driving charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If convicted, the Washington Department of Licensing will suspend the driver’s license for 30 days.
Negligent driving, on the other hand, occurs when a driver fails to use reasonable care while operating a vehicle, which increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents that can lead to personal injuries and damages. In Washington State, negligent driving is defined as failing to exercise ordinary care when driving. All drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians on the road; when that duty is breached by a particular action or inaction, that driver was acting negligently. Negligent drivers are not aware of the risks associated with their behavior, which is why their actions are often classified as traffic infractions.
Here are some examples of negligent driving:
- Driving under the influence of prescribed drugs without realizing that their motor skills have been affected
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of non-prescribed drugs or alcohol
- Unintentionally not leaving enough space between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them such as during poor road conditions
- Failing to use turn signals when turning or changing from one lane to another
- Failing to turn on vehicle lights when driving in the dark or in rainy or foggy conditions
Consequences of negligent driving
In Washington State, the offense of negligent driving first degree is a misdemeanor with a punishment of up to 90 days in jail, and a $1,000 fine. Negligent driving in the second degree is an infraction with a penalty of $500 in fines and other costs.
Recovering damages in a reckless driving claim vs negligent driving claim
Generally speaking, damages may be higher in a reckless driving claim versus a negligent driving claim because the injuries in reckless driving claims are often more serious. In cases that make it to trial, juries may also be more likely to award a higher settlement to a victim of a reckless driver because of the intention behind their behavior.
Whether negligence or recklessness was involved, an experienced car accident lawyer will assess the details of your accident and determine how to build a successful case.
Seek the help of a car accident lawyer
If you or a loved one was injured in a collision because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced car accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!