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Are careless and reckless driving the same?

Facing any traffic citation may set you back financially, not to mention the implications for your license and driving record. Getting stopped by the police and charged with driving erratically or dangerously may leave you facing more than a ticket.

Understanding the differences between terms may help you decide how you want to proceed with a defense. Two charges that often prove confusing are careless and reckless driving. While these may stem from relatively similar infractions, they mean and yield different types of charges.

What is careless driving?

Sometimes, you may break the law without realizing it. For instance, you may zone out and miss a stop sign. While the act is dangerous, you did not intend to run the sign. In this regard, your actions were accidental. The officer may charge you with careless driving.

What is reckless driving?

If an officer stops you for reckless driving, however, you committed a traffic offense in a way that increased the stakes. For instance, if you ran a stop sign, you did so at a high rate of speed without regard for those around you. When an act is dangerous and blatant, it rises to reckless driving. The most common denominator in this charge is excessive speed.

Which charge is more serious?

A charge of reckless driving will find you facing criminal charges the degree of which depends on how egregious the act was. It may cost you thousands of dollars in fines and court fees, not to mention time in jail or on probation. A careless driving charge, in contrast, usually leaves you with a traffic citation.

When protecting your record, you may want to consult someone with experience handling careless and reckless driving charges. Doing so may help you come out of things with a better outcome.