Negligent vs. Reckless Driving 

The vast majority of vehicle accident claims in the Washington area are the result of the negligent actions of one or more drivers on the roadway. However, there are certainly accidents that occur as a result of reckless driving. But what is the difference between negligent driving and reckless driving? Here, we want to define these two terms and discuss how these could affect your particular car accident claim.

Negligent Driving Behaviors on Washington Roadways

Negligence on the roadway occurs when one driver fails to uphold their legal duty owed to others when they operate their vehicle. Often, negligence leads to accidents that cause injuries or property damage.

There are various ways that negligence occurs on Washington roadways. Negligence is typically not something a driver does intentionally, which sets this apart from reckless driving. Some of the most common negligent driving behaviors that can lead to accidents and injuries include the following:

  • Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
  • Driving while distracted by a phone or other devices
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Failing to stop at stop signs or stop lights
  • Not properly using a turn signal
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • Operating under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medications

This is not a complete list of the negligent driving behaviors that could result in an accident, but it does show a range of examples that regularly occur on our roadways.

Reckless Driving Behaviors in Washington

Reckless driving is differentiated from negligent driving in that there is intent behind reckless driving. Typically, even though negligent driving actions can be egregious, there is not intent. Reckless driving typically involves driver intention.

When we examine Washington law (RCW 46.61.500), we can see reckless driving is described as any person who operates a “vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This is considered a misdemeanor violation punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $5,000.

Some examples of reckless driving behavior that could affect others include the following:

  • Extremely excessive speed or racing
  • Disregarding police or government barriers
  • Purposely driving in between lanes of traffic
  • Intentional road rage
  • Weaving in and out of traffic erratically or against traffic signals
  • Operating while under the influence of alcohol or illegal narcotics

There are times when negligent driving behavior can be egregious enough for a person to be charged with reckless driving, but that is up to law enforcement officials.

Working With an Attorney

If you or somebody you care about has been injured as a result of the negligent or reckless driving behaviors of another individual on Washington roadways, we encourage you to reach out to a car accident attorney immediately. Both of these claims must be thoroughly investigated in order for injury and property damage victims to recover the compensation they are entitled to. This can include coverage of medical bills, lost income, property damage expenses, and pain and suffering damages.

The process of determining liability after an accident involving negligent and reckless driving behavior is challenging, and gathering enough evidence will require extensive resources.