Reckless driving and careless driving are not the same things under Virginia law.
Virginia law gives each term a precise meaning.
However, the crimes are connected under Virginia law. Knowing the difference between careless driving vs. reckless driving is very important if you face either of those charges.
Careless and reckless driving are separate crimes in Virginia.
They are both criminal motor vehicle offenses that you must take seriously.
Otherwise, you could go to jail, pay a large fine, and lose your driver’s license. Furthermore, your car insurance might skyrocket.
You could potentially avoid those harsh consequences by contacting a highly experienced and reputable traffic defense attorney from Virginia for representation.
Is Careless Driving the Same as Reckless Driving?
Careless driving under Virginia law refers to a specific crime and not merely driving negligently.
Virginia’s traffic law defines careless driving as a Class I misdemeanor.
In Virginia, Class I misdemeanors carry a maximum one-year jail sentence and a fine up to $2,500.
Careless driving in Virginia refers to driving without exercising caution or driving while distracted, such as texting while driving.
However, the law contains two additional elements, or components, that the Commonwealth must prove.
Careless driving or distracted driving must cause a serious bodily injury to a person defined as a “vulnerable road user.” The vulnerable road user must be on the road legally at the time of the incident.
The statute defines vulnerable road users broadly. Under the law, a vulnerable road user is anyone who is:
- Riding a bicycle,
- Riding a horse or other animal,
- Riding a skateboard,
- Riding in a wheelchair,
- Riding a scooter, or
- Riding in a vehicle drawn by an animal.
A different charge might apply if the person injured was not lawfully on the road.
A person charged by police with careless driving cannot also face reckless driving charges for the same incident.
Similarly, a person facing reckless driving charges cannot also face careless driving charges.
Without proof of a serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user, the accused cannot face careless driving charges.
However, the driver could face other charges like reckless driving.
Reckless Driving vs. Careless Driving
According to Virginia law, reckless driving occurs when a person drives in any way, including speeding, that endangers the life, limb, or property of another.
The crime is based on the dangerous driving itself and does not depend upon the result, unlike careless driving.
Reckless driving is a Class I misdemeanor.
However, the Commonwealth could seek punishment for reckless driving as a Class 6 felony if:
- The driver did not have a valid driver license because of a previous moving violation, and
- Their reckless driving is the sole cause of another person’s death.
A Class 6 felony in Virginia carries a sentence of either one year in jail or one to five years in prison, a $2,500 fine, or both.
Facing Careless or Reckless Driving Charges in Virginia? Contact Us Today
As a traffic defense attorney in Virginia, I understand all of the nuances in the state’s laws that I can use to benefit my clients.
Judges have broad discretion to dismiss or reduce charges from a criminal offense that carries jail time to a moving violation that is punishable by a fine.
Through my years of practice, I understand how to persuade judges to rule in my client’s favor.
Keep in mind that there are more than criminal penalties at stake.
You will receive points on your license after a conviction for either a careless or reckless driving charge, and your insurance could go up.