Reckless Driving vs. careless driving what’s the Difference?

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3rd Jul 2015

While people frequently use the terms “reckless driving” and “careless driving” interchangeably, there is actually a huge difference between these two offenses in Florida.

Careless driving is merely a civil traffic infraction as defined by Florida Statute §316.1925 specifying,
“Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.”

Careless driving is a moving violation, punishable by fines and the assessment of points on your driver’s license, which can lead to increased insurance rates and the suspension of your driver’s license. Careless driving citations are commonly referred to as a catch-all citation since the allegation may be issued when the police officer can’t find any other specific traffic law violation that seems to fit the circumstances. In Florida, police officers commonly give a careless driving citation to the driver that they believe to be at fault in a traffic accident. Careless driving citations are particularly common in rear-end accidents where the police officer did not witness the accident.

Unlike a careless driving charge, which is a civil traffic offense in Florida, reckless driving is a criminal traffic offense in Florida.

Pursuant to Florida Statute §316.192, “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” As used in the reckless driving statute, “willful” means intentional, knowing, and purposeful, and “wanton” means with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property.

Some examples of reckless driving in Florida include, but are not limited to, drag racing on the highway, weaving in and out of traffic at an extremely high rate of speed, and fleeing law enforcement in a vehicle.

A first-time reckless driving conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500.00 fine. However, if you have previously been convicted with reckless driving, you can face enhanced penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1000.00. If you are driving recklessly and are in an accident that causes damage to property or another person, you can be convicted of a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1000.00 fine. If you are driving recklessly and are in an accident that causes serious bodily injury or death, the charges may be significantly enhanced to serious felonies.

Also, a reckless driving conviction will result in the assessment of four (4) points on your driver’s license. If you have been charged with careless driving or reckless driving in South Florida, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced Miami traffic defense lawyer or Fort Lauderdale traffic defense lawyer to represent you. Criminal defense attorney Scott Saul has substantial experience defending clients with reckless driving charges, as well as all other criminal traffic offenses. Scott Saul will do everything in his power to get your case reduced or dismissed altogether and prevent you from getting points on your driver’s license. Time is of the essence—if you’ve received a criminal traffic violation, contact us immediately.