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Negligent Driving vs. Reckless Driving

March 25, 2021

Negligent Driving vs. Reckless Driving

Vehicle accidents have a variety of causes. As police officers, insurance carriers, and attorneys investigate accidents, it is not uncommon to determine that the incidents were caused by the negligent or reckless actions of one or more drivers. However, it is important to distinguish between “negligent” driving and “reckless” driving behaviors. While the distinction between the two may seem relatively minor, the reality is that these are two different things. In fact, determining whether or not a driver was negligent or reckless in causing a crash could affect how much compensation any victim receives.

What Does Negligent Driving Mean?

Every driver on the roadway has a duty to exercise reasonable care when operating their vehicles in order to ensure the safety of others on the road. However, there are various ways that a driver could be negligent when they are behind the wheel. Some examples of negligent driving behaviors include the following:

  • Not using a turn signal
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Speeding
  • Adjusting the radio

When examining negligent driving behavior, we will typically find that this type of driving behavior is not intentional. However, just because a driver did not intend to operate negligently does not absolve them of blame if an accident occurs.

What Does Reckless Driving Mean?

Reckless driving is any behavior in which a driver wantonly disregards the safety of others on the roadway. To distinguish reckless driving from negligent driving, we can generally say that reckless drivers willfully or intentionally engage in unsafe driving behaviors, as opposed to operating unsafely by accident. Some of the most common examples of reckless driving include the following:

  • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive speeding
  • Street racing
  • Intentionally running a red light
  • Driving at night without headlights
  • Texting and driving

When examining reckless driving behavior, we typically find that drivers knew that the behavior they were engaged in was unsafe.

Any person convicted of reckless driving will be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor offense. This could carry a sentence of up to four months in jail and a fine of $750.

Could the Difference Affect Compensation for Victims?

If a driver is found to have been operating negligently or recklessly when they caused a vehicle accident, they will likely be required to compensate any victim in the incident. However, drivers who are found to have operated recklessly may also be hit with punitive damages that they have to pay any victim(s) involved. Punitive damages are not awarded in all vehicle accident cases. They are typically reserved for instances where the behavior of the at-fault driver was grossly negligent or intentional. These punitive damages will be paid to the victim on top of any economic or non-economic compensation already awarded.

If you or somebody you care about has been involved in a vehicle accident caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another driver, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A skilled Phoenix car accident lawyer will examine the facts of the case, conducted a complete investigation, and negotiate on behalf of the injury victim in order to recover full compensation.

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