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Reckless Driving: Penalties by State and How it Affects Car Insurance

Reckless driving is defined as the operation of a vehicle in such a way that it disregards the safety of others and traffic laws. This could include aggressive driving, illegal passing, or tailgating. If you're convicted of reckless driving, your car insurance rates are likely to go up. It's also possible your carrier will drop you altogether. You could face fines, criminal charges which go on your driving record for years, jail time, and a suspended license depending on the severity of the offense. Find out more about what constitutes reckless driving and how it can impact your life and coverage.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is a term used to describe dangerous or negligent driving. It can encompass a wide range of behaviors, but generally, it refers to driving in a way that puts others at risk. This could be from, but necessarily due to, driving under the influence (DUI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI). Reckless driving is often considered a serious offense, as it can lead to accidents and injuries. Drivers should be careful to avoid engaging in reckless behavior, as it can result in costly tickets or even license suspensions.

Examples of Reckless Driving

Below are some of the most common forms of reckless driving:

  • Exceeding the posted speed limit

  • Tailgating

  • Making unsafe lane changes

  • Passing on the shoulder or in a no-passing zone

  • Running a red light or stop sign

  • Texting while driving

Reckless driving is a term used to describe driving that puts others at risk.

What Is Considered a Reckless Driving Speed?

There is no definitive answer to the question of what constitutes a reckless driving speed. In general, however, excessive speeding - that is, driving more than 20 miles over the posted speed limit for example - is usually considered to be reckless. Similarly, driving more than 20 miles per hour under the posted limit can also be considered reckless. Of course, these are merely guidelines; depending on the circumstances, even driving a few miles over the speed limit can be considered reckless. For instance, if there is heavy traffic or poor visibility, driving even a small amount over the limit can be dangerous and constitute reckless driving. Ideally, such actions will only result in a citation should they occur.

What Are the Consequences of Reckless Driving?

Below you will find national data from the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and the Revisor of Missouri on the consequences of reckless driving and whether the violation is a misdemeanor or a felony.

State

Penalty

Category

Alabama

Imprisonment - First offense - 5 to 90 days; Subsequent offense - 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense - $25 to $500; subsequent offense - $50 to $500

Misdemeanor

Alaska

Imprisonment - Not more than 1 year

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

Arizona

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 4 months. Subsequent offense (within 24 months) — not more than 6 months

Fine - First offense — not more than $750. Subsequent offense (within 24 months) — not more than $2,500

Class 2 misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation within 24 months is a Class 1 misdemeanor

Arkansas

Imprisonment - I. Non-Injury-related offense: first offense — 5 to 90 days. Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — 30 days to 6 months

II. Injury-related Offense — first offense — 30 to 90 days. Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — 60 days to 1 year

Fine - I. Non-Injury-related Offense: first offense — $25 to $500. Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — $500 to $1,000

II. Injury-related Offense — first offense —$100 to $1,000; Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — $500 to $1,000

Class B misdemeanor 

California

Imprisonment - 5 days to 90 days

Fine - $145 to $1,000

Misdemeanor

Colorado

Imprisonment - First offense — 10 to 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $10 to $300. Subsequent offense — $50 to $1,000

Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense

Connecticut

Imprisonment - First offense — Not more than 30 days. Subsequent offense — Not more than 1 year. 

Fine - First offense — $100 to $300. Subsequent offense — not more than $600

Misdemeanor 

Delaware

Imprisonment - First offense — 10 to 30 days. Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — 30 to 60 days.

Fine - First offense — $100 to $300. Subsequent offense (within 3 years) — $300 to $1,000

Misdemeanor

District of Columbia

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 3 months. Subsequent offense (within 2 years) — not more than 1 year

Fine - First offense — not more than $250. Subsequent offense (within 2 years) — not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

Florida

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 90 days. Subsequent offense — not more than 6 months

Fine - First offense — $25 to $500. Subsequent offense — $50 to $1,000

Misdemeanor (Moving Violation)

Georgia

Imprisonment - Not more than 12 months

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

Hawaii

Imprisonment - Not more than 30 days

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Petty misdemeanor

Idaho

Imprisonment - First offense — 5 to 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $25 to $300. Subsequent offense — $50 to $300

Misdemeanor

Illinois

Imprisonment - Any term less than 1 year

Fine - Not more than $2,500

Class A misdemeanor

Indiana

Imprisonment - Not more than 180 days

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Class B misdemeanor

Iowa

Imprisonment - Not more than 30 days

Fine - $50 to $500

Simple misdemeanor

Kansas

Imprisonment - First offense — 5 to 90 day. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $25 to $500. Subsequent offense — $50 to $500

Misdemeanor

Kentucky

Imprisonment - None

Fine - $20 to $100

Violation

Louisiana

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — not more than $200. Subsequent offense — $25 to $500

Misdemeanor

Maine

Imprisonment - Not more than 6 months in the county jail

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Felony

Maryland

Imprisonment - None

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

Massachusetts

Imprisonment - Two weeks to 2 years

Fine - $20 to $200

Misdemeanor

Michigan

Imprisonment - Not more than 90 days

Fine - Not more than $100

Misdemeanor

Minnesota

Imprisonment - Not more than 90 days

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

Mississippi

Imprisonment - First offense — none. Subsequent offense — not more than 10 days

Fine - First offense — $5 to $100. Subsequent offense — not more than $500

Misdemeanor

Missouri

Imprisonment - None

Fine - Up to $1000 - $2000

Class B misdemeanor. If the violation results in an accident, it is a Class A misdemeanor

Montana

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 90 days; subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months.

Fine - First offense — $25 to $300; subsequent offense — $50 to $500

Misdemeanor

Nebraska

Imprisonment - First offense (Class III misdemeanor) — not more than 3 months. Second offense (Class II misdemeanor) — not more than 6 months. Subsequent offense (Class I misdemeanor) — not more than 1 year

Fine - First offense (Class III misdemeanor) — not more than $500. Second offense (Class II misdemeanor) — not more than $1,000. Subsequent offense (Class I misdemeanor) — not more than $1,000

Class I, II or III misdemeanor

Nevada

Imprisonment - Not more than 6 months

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Misdemeanor

New Hampshire

Imprisonment - None.

Fine - $250 to $500

Violation

New Jersey

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 60 days. Subsequent offense — not more than 3 months

Fine - First offense — $50 to $200. Subsequent offense — $100 to $500

Quasi-criminal/Petty Offense

New Mexico

Imprisonment - First offense — 5 to 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $25 to $100. Subsequent offense — $50 to $1,000

Misdemeanor

New York

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 30 days. Second offense (within 18 months) — not more than 90 days. Subsequent offense (within 18 months) — not more than 180 days

Fine - First offense — not more than $300, Second offense (within 18 months) — not more than $525. Subsequent offense (within 18 months) — not more than $1125

Misdemeanor

North Carolina

Imprisonment - 1 to 60 days

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Class 2 misdemeanor

North Dakota

Imprisonment - Not more than 30 days

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Class B misdemeanor

Ohio

Imprisonment - First offense (minor misdemeanor) — none. Second offense (within 1 year) (4th-degree misdemeanor) — not more than 30 days. Subsequent offense (within 1 year) (Third-degree misdemeanor) — not more than 60 days

Fine - First offense (minor misdemeanor) — not more than $100. Second offense (within 1 year) (4th-degree misdemeanor) — not more than $250. Subsequent offense (within 1 year) (Third-degree misdemeanor) — not more than $500

Misdemeanor

Oklahoma

Imprisonment - First offense — 5 days to 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $250 to $500. Subsequent offense — $300 to $1,000

Misdemeanor

Oregon

Imprisonment - Not more than 1 year

Fine - Not more than $5,000

Class A misdemeanor

Pennsylvania

Imprisonment - None

Fine - $200

Summary Offense

Rhode Island

Imprisonment - First offense — not more than 1 year. Subsequent offense — 1 to 5 years

Fine - First offense — not more than $500. Subsequent offense — not more than $5,000

First offense — misdemeanor; subsequent offense — Felony

South Carolina

Imprisonment - Not more than 30 days

Fine - $25 to $200

Misdemeanor

South Dakota

Imprisonment - Not more than 1 year

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Class 1 misdemeanor

Tennessee

Imprisonment - Not more than 6 months

Fine - Not more than $500

Class B misdemeanor

Texas

Imprisonment - Not more than 30 days

Fine - Not more than $200

Misdemeanor

Utah

Imprisonment - Not more than 6 months

Fine - Not more than $1,000

Class B misdemeanor

Vermont

Imprisonment - 1 year to 4 years

Fine - Negligent Motor Vehicle operation - First offense — not more than $1,000. Subsequent offense — not more than $3,000. Grossly Negligent Motor Vehicle Operation - First offense — not more than $5,000. Subsequent offense — not more than $10,000. Offense Involving Either Serious Bodily Injury or Death — not more than $15,000

Lower Severity - Misdemeanor. Higher severity - First offense — Misdemeanor; subsequent offense — Felony; Offense Involving Either Serious Bodily Injury or Death-Felony

Virginia

Imprisonment - Not more than 12 months

Fine - Not more than $2,500

Class 1 misdemeanor

Washington

Imprisonment - Not more than 1 year

Fine - Not more than $5,000

Gross misdemeanor

West Virginia

Imprisonment - First offense — 5 to 90 days. Subsequent offense — 10 days to 6 months

Fine - First offense — $25 to $500. Subsequent offense — $50 to $1,000

Misdemeanor

Wisconsin

Imprisonment - Endangering Persons or Property: first offense (Forfeiture) — none; subsequent offense (within 4 years)(misdemeanor) — not more than 1 year in the county jail. Causing Bodily Harm (misdemeanor) — 30 days to 1 year in the county jail. Causing Great Bodily Harm-Felony 531-90 days to 2 years and 3 months

Fine - Endangering Persons or Property: first offense (Forfeiture) — $25 to $200; subsequent offense (within 4 years) (misdemeanor) — not more than 1 year in county jail. Causing Bodily Harm (misdemeanor) — $300 to $2,000. §346.65(3) Causing Great Bodily Harm (Felony) — $600 to $2,000

Civil Forfeiture, misdemeanor or felony

Wyoming

Imprisonment - Not more than 6 months

Fine - Not more than $750

Misdemeanor

How Does Reckless Driving Affect Car Insurance?

If you're convicted of reckless driving, your car insurance rates will almost certainly go up. You may even be dropped by your carrier. It can be difficult to get new insurance if you're dropped for a felony or misdemeanor, but it's not impossible, just expensive. There are a few insurance carriers that specialize in high-risk drivers. You may also be asked to file an SR-22, which is a certification that proves you have the minimum amount of car insurance for liability. Getting an SR-22 will typically require you to pay higher rates, but it will allow you to get coverage.

Find Affordable Car Insurance for High-Risk Drivers

How Long Does a Reckless Driving Conviction Stay on Your Record?

A reckless driving conviction can stay on your record for at least three years. In most states, a reckless driving conviction is a misdemeanor offense. This means that it will show up on your record if someone does a background check. The court may also order you to complete a defensive driving course, pay a fine, or both. You may also have trouble renting a car or getting a job that requires you to drive. If you are convicted of more than one reckless driving offense, the penalties become more severe. You may lose your license for a year or more and be required to pay steep fines.

Reckless Driving and Car Insurance FAQs

Does the definition of reckless driving differ from state to state?

It does. In most states, reckless driving can be defined as operating a vehicle in a manner that endangers the lives of others. This can include speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights, or other moving violations. In some states, the definition of reckless driving is even broader and can encompass any behavior that shows a disregard for the safety of others. Drivers who are convicted of reckless driving can face significant penalties, including fines, jail time, and the suspension of their driver's license.

What can I do if my license is suspended for reckless driving?

First, you'll need to complete any required court appearances and pay any fines. You may also be required to complete a driver's education course or attend a hearing. Once you've fulfilled all of the requirements, you can submit an application to have your license reinstated. The reinstatement process can vary from state to state, so it's important to check with your local DMV for specific instructions.

How many accidents can you have before your insurance drops you?

This answer depends on your insurance company. Whether you are "at fault" for an accident is a key determining factor in being able to keep your current insurance. It should also be noted that an insurance carrier won't necessarily drop you. Instead, you may receive a notice stating your contract will be terminated at the time of renewal. This should give you enough time to shop around for a new carrier.

A reckless driving conviction can stay on your record for at least three years.

Don't Let Reckless Driving Stop You From Being Covered

Reckless driving is a serious offense in many states and can result in fines, jail time, and a criminal record. It can also seriously affect your insurance, causing your rates to go up or possibly causing your carrier to drop you as a customer.

Don't let reckless driving stop you from being insured. Enter your zip code below and fill out a quick questionnaire. SmartFinancial will send you free quotes for the lowest rates in your area based on your answers.

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