The term "reckless driving" can be used to cover a large range of negligent behaviors undertaken while behind the wheel of an automobile. In law, the term is often applied to people who disregard the rules of the road blatantly, putting other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in immediate danger. While the terms are often used interchangeably, "careless driving" and "improper driving" are generally used to describe less serious offenses than what is considered "reckless driving."
Many activities can be included under the umbrella of reckless driving. Excessive speeding, contests for speed, dangerous passing, failing to yield or stop, driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, flight from an officer, or traffic law violations leading to bodily harm of others can all be considered legally reckless behaviors. In recent years, actions are driven by "road rage" have been added to the list. All drivers get frustrated with other motorists from time to time, so what truly classifies road rage?
In general, road rage can be defined by acting with the purpose or intent of intimidating and outperforming other drivers on the road, often to express anger and dissatisfaction with the way they are driving. Actions frequently associated with road rage and reckless driving include tailgating, sudden acceleration, braking, cutting others off, throwing objects from a moving vehicle, excessive honking, rude gestures, and intentionally causing a collision.
As it seems to increase in frequency, some jurisdictions have started to create legal differences that separate rage (usually called "aggressive driving") from reckless driving. California is the only state that has gone so far as to create a legal definition of road rage. In some cases, individuals suspected of road rage can be charged with assault and battery or even vehicular manslaughter/homicide. These more serious charges require proof of intent that is sometimes difficult to establish, so drivers exhibiting probable rage are still charged with reckless driving regularly.
The penalties that come with being convicted of reckless driving can vary greatly depending on the details of the incident. If the case is attributed to rage, the consequences will likely be more severe than if similar damage were done under circumstances of non-rage-related recklessness. In 2007, a man in Colorado was convicted of first-degree murder for killing two people in a road rage incident. He was sentenced to serve two consecutive life terms in prison.
For more information about road rage and reckless driving, visit the website of Barkemeyer Law Firm.