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The Difference Between Careless Driving & Reckless Driving in FL


Careless vs. Reckless Driving

All licensed drivers in Florida have a duty to obey all traffic signs and operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner every time they are on the roads or highways. Not only can breaching this duty result in a car accident, but it can also lead to traffic citations or even a criminal charge.

Failure to exercise reasonable care when you are behind the wheel can lead to two types of traffic offenses: careless driving and reckless driving.

Although many people use these terms interchangeably, there are main differences between careless driving and reckless driving in Florida.

What Is Considered Careless Driving?

Under Florida Statute § 316.1925:

“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 often cited in rear-end collisions and failure-to-yield accents. Officers may sometimes cite this offense in distracted driving cases, although they may also charge a distracted driver with violating Florida’s distracted driving law.

What Are the Penalties for Careless Driving?

Careless driving is a moving violation, which carries steep fines and points added to your driver’s license, which can result in driver’s license suspension and increased insurance premiums.

These citations are generally used as a “catch-all” citation to whoever is at fault for causing a car accident – especially if a police officer cannot find any other specific traffic law violations involved in the crash.

Aggressive Careless Driving

Additionally, you could also be cited for “aggressive careless driving” if you commit two or more of the following acts simultaneously or in succession:

  • Speeding
  • Improper or unsafe lane changes
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Improperly passing a vehicle
  • Failing to obey traffic signs or signals

What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

According 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.”

The main difference between careless driving and reckless driving is that the latter is a criminal offense, as opposed to a moving violation. The prosecution must prove that you were purposely operating a vehicle with indifference to the consequences of your actions.

Common examples of reckless driving include:

  • Fleeing a police officer
  • Street racing
  • Weaving in and out of traffic while speeding
  • Driving more than 20 miles past the posted speed limit

Reckless Driving Penalties

A first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 90 days and/or a fine of up to $500. A second or subsequent offense can result in a jail term of up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

Car Accidents Involving a Careless Driver

If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida and the at-fault driver is cited for careless driving by law enforcement officials, the citation may certainly help your case. However, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically win since your injury claim and the traffic citation involve two different legal processes.

Florida is a no-fault accident state, which means injury claims will be handled by each driver’s own personal injury protection (PIP) insurer. Therefore, your insurance company will consider the evidence of the case—including the careless driving citation—in order to reach a settlement agreement.

How the Paulsen Law Group Can Help

Alas, if you suffered a serious injury or if the insurer refuses to provide you with a fair offer, it is best to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights and best interests, as well as maximize your entitled compensation.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Tampa Bay, contact Paulsen Law Group today to schedule a free consultation.

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