Washington State Reckless and Negligent Driving Laws
Reckless and negligent driving often causes the most serious automobile accidents and the most severe injuries.
Reckless driving in Washington State is worse (or more dangerous or egregious) than negligent driving. Reckless driving is a crime, but typically negligent driving is only a civil traffic offense. Under Washington State law, reckless driving is defined as a when a driver operates a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.
Examples of reckless driving include: very excessive speeding (at least 25+ miles over the posted speed limit), any wanton or willful behavior that affects your ability to steer or shift your vehicle; extremely dangerous behavior that can affect your vision or slow your reaction times (such as drinking and driving); and automobile racing on public roads.
Negligent driving in Washington State is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a careless manner under the circumstances.
Examples of negligent driving may include: running a stop sign, performing a lane change without looking or yielding the right of way, or any other type of careless driving that might cause an accident.
Reckless Driving Penalties in Washington State
In Washington State reckless driving is considered a gross misdemeanor (defined as a criminal offense where the maximum jail time is less than one year). This crime is more serious than a simple traffic infraction and will be noted on your permanent driving record. Reckless driving can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and the offender can be sentenced to jail time not exceeding one year. In most cases a reckless driving charge is also accompanied by at least a 30 day suspension of the offender's driver's license. A driver who has been convicted of reckless driving is required to get an SR-22 high risk auto insurance, which is typically much more expensive than regular auto insurance.