Consequences of Reckless Driving in California
Every year, thousands of people are injured and killed in traffic accidents caused by reckless driving, drivers, many of whom are California residents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that around 42,795 people died in traffic accidents in 2022, a .3% decrease since 2021. However, 2021 marked a 15-year record high for U.S. traffic fatalities, with 42,939 deaths, and the NHTSA observed that one of the primary contributors to these tragic accidents was reckless driving.
The definition and legal consequences of reckless driving differ by state, but regardless of where you drive, you need to avoid operating your vehicle dangerously. Failing to drive with the utmost safety can have fatal consequences for yourself and others.
If you were injured in a reckless driving accident in California, contact Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We offer free case evaluations and can answer your questions so that you can start the process of recovering compensation.
Reckless Driving Definition
The exact legal definition of reckless driving varies depending on where you live, but generally, it means driving in a way that disregards the safety of others. California Vehicle Code 23103 VC defines reckless driving as the “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Some states make a distinction between aggressive and reckless driving, but that’s not the case in California. Instead, road authorities consider aggressive drivers reckless.
One important note is that while driving recklessly is considered negligence, negligent driving doesn’t necessarily mean that a person was reckless. For example, if a person fails to spot a stop sign and crashes into another vehicle, the driver was certainly negligent. Still, their negligence may not be considered a “willful or wanton disregard” for the other driver’s safety. That said, ignoring traffic signals can be considered reckless driving, depending on the specific circumstances of the accident.
What is Considered Reckless Driving in California?
Often, it’s challenging to determine what’s technically reckless driving, especially in accidents involving speeding. Operating your car over the speed limit isn’t inherently reckless, but it can be classified as reckless driving in some situations.
Driving more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit is considered reckless driving. Additionally, driving even slightly over the speed limit in situations involving heavy traffic, nearby pedestrians, or bad weather can also be considered reckless.
Some other forms of reckless driving in California include:
- Texting at the wheel or engaging in another distraction
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failing to yield when you don’t have the right of way
- Passing another driver illegally
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Street racing
- Brake checking
- Blocking vehicles attempting to pass
- Aggressive and unnecessary honking
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Driving with a blocked view
- Driving while drowsy
- Blinding other drivers with high beams
Penalties for Reckless Driving
Road authorities typically charge reckless drivers with misdemeanors in California. Those caught may face the following:
- Five to 90 days in jail
- A fine ranging between $145 and $1,000
- Two points against their license
- A six-month license suspension
If someone drives recklessly and injures another person, they’ll likely face harsher penalties, including heftier fines and additional jail time. Inflicting minor injuries may result in 30 days to one year in jail.
If a reckless driver causes serious injuries to a victim, they could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Those charged with felony reckless driving may face a prison sentence of up to three years as well as a maximum fine of $10,000. Authorities will also impound their car.
Common Reckless Driving Accident Injuries
Reckless driving accidents can cause victims to suffer any number of minor or serious injuries. Some of the factors that will determine the severity of these injuries include the speed of the vehicles involved, the point of impact, and the use of safety equipment. A reckless driving accident may cause:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Organ damage
- Soft tissue damage
- Facial injuries
- Burn injuries
Additionally, these accidents and their resulting injuries can cause victims to suffer from mental and emotional conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Recovering Compensation After a California Reckless Driving Accident
A reckless driving accident can have a profound and lasting impact on your life. The physical injuries you sustained from the crash may cause chronic pain, mental and emotional difficulties, and may even leave you with permanent disabilities that impact your ability to work and enjoy life. Plus, the financial burden of paying for your medical treatments, rehabilitation, and ongoing care can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, you have every right to hold a reckless driver accountable after a collision. Even if they already face criminal charges, you can file a claim or lawsuit against them to recover compensation for your past and future medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.
California Reckless Driving Accident Attorneys
If you were injured in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, or the surrounding areas, consider contacting the reckless driving accident attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We have many years of experience fighting on behalf of personal injury victims in California so that they could recover full compensation.
We offer free, no-risk case evaluations and can help you get started today. Call us at 877-380-8852, or schedule your consultation with our team online here.