Reckless Driving vs. Careless Driving in New Jersey

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What’s the Difference Between Careless Driving and Reckless Driving?

While “careless driving” and “reckless driving” may sound like interchangeable terms, they are two distinct charges under New Jersey law. Some people are particularly confused when they receive both a careless driving ticket and a reckless driving charge as a result of a single traffic stop. Understanding the differences between the two offenses is essential to understanding the charges against you, potential penalties, and how to fight the charges.

Understanding NJ Careless Driving Tickets

In New Jersey, careless driving is classified as a traffic offense. When a driver is careless, they do not have any intent to drive poorly but are deviating from the standard of care that a driver should have and are not operating the vehicle with due caution. Carelessness is often due to a small distraction or lack of careful attention to your surroundings or the manner in which you are operating the motor vehicle. Even a typically safe driver can make mistakes or have a bad day that causes them to be distracted. If you drift into the lane next to you, fail to signal, or fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, a police officer may issue you a careless driving ticket.

If you are found guilty of careless driving in New Jersey, it will add 2 points to your license. Sometimes, a police officer may issue you a careless driving ticket instead of a speeding ticket because a careless driving offense will result in fewer points on your license. While a careless driving violation is not as serious as a reckless driving charge, it is likely to increase your car insurance rates, due to the points on your license.

Reckless Driving Charges in NJ

Reckless driving involves operating a motor vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard” for the rights or safety of others in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger other individuals or property. This requires a much more significant deviation from a reasonable standard of care than careless driving. Some examples of reckless driving include driving at unusually high speeds, willfully driving through red lights, racing another car on the highway, and weaving between cars at a high speed.

Unlike careless driving, reckless driving exposes you to jail time. Specifically, the potential penalties for reckless driving in NJ include up to 60 days in jail for a first time offense and up to 3 months in jail for a second reckless driving conviction. In addition to potential jail time, if convicted for reckless driving, you will face fines of $50 to $200 for the first offense and $100 to $500 for a second conviction.

Charged With Reckless or Careless Driving in Union, New Jersey?

If you have been issued a ticket for reckless driving or careless driving, you should speak with an experienced traffic lawyer about how best to resolve this serious legal matter. A careless driving charge may result in a considerable increase to your car insurance rates due to the point on your license, and a reckless driving charge may result in jail time and will raise your car insurance rates significantly. Additionally, if you accumulate enough points on your license in New Jersey, the DMV can suspend your driving privileges and charge you heavy fines. If the prosecutor can prove you were driving carelessly or recklessly, they may also pursue a conviction for other charges such as driving while intoxicated (DWI). In other words, the consequences are not worth the risk of trying to handle these allegations alone. If you have been charged with careless driving, reckless driving, or both, contact the traffic defense attorneys at William Proetta Criminal Law in Cranford, NJ. We provide free consultations, so call (908) 838-0150 to find out more about how we can fight the charges against you.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.