What Is the Difference Between Careless Driving and Reckless Driving?
While driving is a huge part of our everyday life, it’s a significant responsibility because of the risk of harm or death when someone’s involved in an auto accident. State laws require motorists to follow traffic rules and safe driving regulations as a result. You can be charged with a traffic offense for violating these driving laws.
Being charged with traffic offenses like careless or reckless driving should be taken seriously. Both charges could lead to financial penalties and imprisonment.
What Is Careless Driving?
In Virginia, you could be guilty of careless driving if your careless or distracted driving results in injury to a vulnerable road user. A “vulnerable road user” is a pedestrian, bicyclist (electric power-assisted or not), or someone using roller skates, a motorized scooter, a skateboard (motorized or non-motorized), a wheelchair, an electric personal assistive mobility device, or an animal-drawn vehicle or mobility device. Someone riding an animal is also a “vulnerable road user.”
Careless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, so if convicted, you could be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months in jail and fined a maximum of $2,500.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Virginia law states that if a motorist drives a vehicle recklessly on a road or highway in the Commonwealth of Virginia, then they are guilty of reckless driving. “Reckless driving” is defined as endangering the life or safety of another person or risking damage to property.
The following are some of the actions that are considered reckless driving in Virginia:
- Driving while your view is obstructed
- Driving 20 or more above the posted speed limit
- Driving above 85 mph
- Passing a school bus
- Passing an emergency vehicle
- Passing a vehicle at a railroad crossing
- Driving a vehicle with brakes that aren’t properly functioning
- Driving without using proper signaling
- Failing to stop before entering a highway
In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you’re convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor, you could be fined $2,500 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.
However, you could be charged with a Class 6 felony if you were driving recklessly with a suspended or revoked license (the result of a prior traffic offense) and your reckless driving directly caused someone’s death. If you’re convicted of a Class 6 felony in Virginia, you could be fined $2,500 and/or sentenced to prison for up to 5 years.
If you’re found guilty of reckless driving while using a cellphone, you would be fined a maximum of $250.
Other Consequences of a Reckless or Careless Driving Conviction
Aside from the risks to your freedom and personal finances, there are also consequences that affect your driving privileges if you’re convicted of reckless driving. After you’re convicted of careless or reckless driving, the courts will inform the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
A reckless driving conviction would cause six demerit points to be applied to your driving record. Most reckless driving convictions stay on your DMV record for 11 years. Similarly, a careless driving conviction would result in four demerit points being applied to your driving record. Your careless driving conviction would stay on your record for five years.
The six demerit points for a reckless driving conviction or four demerit points for a careless driving conviction would stay on your DMV record for two years from the date the driving offense was committed.
Call Whitestone Young, PC, for a High-Quality Criminal Defense Lawyer
Have you been charged with careless driving? Were you recently charged with reckless driving? Contact the Virginia traffic violations defense lawyers at Whitestone Young, PC, to defend you against your charges and help protect your freedom. We have over four decades of experience representing clients in Virginia just like you. Call us today at 703-591-0200.