California Reckless Driving

August 16, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

California Reckless Driving

Regardless of how safely you drive, you are always at risk for an accident because you cannot control other drivers. You can give them space and try to stay out of their way, but sometimes accidents are not preventable; especially if you are in tight traffic with no way out. 

While most driving errors are quickly corrected and relatively foreseeable, certain motorists are hard to predict. If you are injured in an accident due to a reckless driver, contact the Chain | Cohn | Clark car accident lawyers to provide legal assistance. 

What Is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is often used as a catch-all term to describe any actions behind the wheel of a car that show a blatant disregard for oneself or others on the road. 

California Vehicle Code 23103 – Reckless Driving

Even though “reckless driving” is used to describe many actions, there is a section of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) that specifically outlines what it means. CVC 23103 states that the following conditions must be met in a reckless driving case:

  • The defendant was driving on a highway or in an off-street parking facility.
  • The individual engaged in driving behavior that showed a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.

Many times it is at the discretion of the officer or court to determine if somebody’s actions were reckless or not. 

Examples of Reckless Driving

Reckless driving comes in many forms, but being able to identify a reckless driver before it’s too late can prevent a serious accident. Here are some key actions you can take to identify reckless driving on the road. 

Excessive Speeding

Speeding alone is not sufficient to be considered reckless driving. There must be some form of additional negligence associated with the act. However, when a driver reaches certain speeds, breaking other rules becomes inevitable. The act also becomes reckless when it puts other people in active danger. If an individual is going 25 MPH over the speed limit, they may have to change lanes or pass other cars in an improper fashion.

Not to mention that speeding plays a significant role in causing fatal car accidents. Driving faster increases the chance of getting into an accident and the potential risk factor of that accident. The faster you are moving, the more difficult it becomes to maneuver your vehicle to respond to changing road conditions.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is another broad term that refers to angry or impatient behaviors on the road. There are a variety of specific actions associated with aggressive driving––also known as “road rage.” Below are some of the more common forms of road rage we see in California.

  • Tailgating: There are specific laws in California that forbid driving too close to the next vehicle in front. Space must be given based on factors like traffic, road conditions, and visibility. An aggressive driver may drive very close to the back of your vehicle because they are angry, impatient, etc. This can be dangerous because, if you slow down at all, they will rear-end you. If someone is tailgating you, try to let them pass instead of risking a collision. If they seem to be targeting you or causing a dangerous situation for others, call the police. 
  • Cutting people off: Sometimes impatient drivers think they can reach their destination faster if they frequently switch lanes. The truth is that they won’t save much time for themselves but they will cause significant hold ups for everyone behind them. Drivers will sometimes sporadically try to change lanes without using the proper signals. This can take other drivers by surprise and increase the risk of an accident, which will really slow down traffic. 
  • Excessive honking: There is nothing wrong with laying on the horn to alert someone of an incoming threat or inform them of a mistake. In fact, honking the horn can be a helpful and impactful tool when around other drivers. The problem is when somebody uses the horn to communicate their emotions after a problem has been resolved or addressed. Excessive horn honking is often paired with tailgating and can cause serious distractions for other drivers. This aggressive behavior can be seen as reckless and may result in some liability if there is an accident. 
  • Brake checking: Sometimes a form of retaliation, brake checking is when a lead driver unnecessarily slams on the brakes to surprise the driver behind them. Even though people think that brake checking a tailgater will stop them from driving so close, the lead driver risks being liable if an accident occurs. Brake checking can still be considered a form of road rage

Ignoring Traffic Laws

Driving laws are implemented to protect California motorists from harm. If somebody actively disregards those laws, they are putting themselves and others at risk. This disregard for the safety of other drivers, in combination with legal ignorance, can be considered reckless driving. 

If you notice somebody who is not following traffic laws or seems to be driving recklessly, give them ample space. Do not engage with a reckless driver or attempt to stop them. If they appear to be putting people in danger, call the cops and let them know, but do not risk your own safety.

If you are the victim of a reckless driving accident in which the other driver was not following the rules of the road, contact a Bakersfield car accident lawyer to help you prove fault. If there were any witnesses who can attest to the driving habits of the reckless motorist, get their contact information for later. The driver who injured you while breaking the law should be held responsible for the cost of your injuries.

Driving While Intoxicated

Individuals who knowingly drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are putting other drivers at risk. If you notice a reckless driver that may be driving drunk, call the police as soon as possible. Drunk drivers are a hazard to all those around them, especially if they are also concurrently committing other acts of reckless driving. 

Street Racing

Street racing or drag racing is illegal on public roads in California. This occurs when individuals engage in something called a “speed contest.” Speed contests are defined as races between two vehicles or against a timing device. This can be as simple as trying to drive faster than someone on the highway next to you. If both of you are displaying behaviors that you are trying to overtake the other person, it can be deemed as a speed contest. 

If you sustain an injury from drivers that are racing, you may be able to recover compensation from them. If you were one of the racing drivers, you will likely be held at least partially liable for any accident, even if someone else also contributed to the accident, and you may not be able to recover damages. 

Other Reckless Driving Examples

Additional actions that may constitute a reckless driving offense include the following:

  • Intentionally evading police officers
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
  • Driving on a sidewalk
  • Driving through a crowd
  • Using a cell phone while driving
  • Passing on a two-lane highway
  • Passing over double yellow lines

Reckless Driving Penalties

Individuals who put others in danger by driving recklessly may face the following consequences:

  • Up to 90 days in prison
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Points on your driver’s license
  • Insurance premium increases

The exact punishment will be determined based on the circumstances of the charge. Who was hurt and how badly, what the reckless individual was doing, and where the accident happened are all factors that help determine the punishment.

Civil Consequences

Aside from the criminal charges for reckless driving, another significant consequence drivers may face is a civil lawsuit. If their negligent actions cause damage or injury to another individual, the victim can pursue damages from the liable party. While this might not seem as serious as jail time, the number of benefits that must be paid can be substantial.

How Can a Chain | Cohn | Clark Lawyer Help the Victim of a Reckless Driver?

In a civil lawsuit, the reward is meant to cover any current or future issues that may have been caused by a car accident, thereby the victim can continue living life as though they were never affected. 

Car accidents can be traumatic and have a gigantic ripple effect on the rest of a person’s life. Injury lawsuits are rarely limited to car damage and medical treatment, there are often special compensatory damages to be paid as well. These include less concrete values like emotional and physical pain and suffering. 

When somebody drives recklessly, they put others in danger and establish themselves as the negligent party. Proving that somebody drove with a disregard for your safety can make them responsible for the damages.

A car accident lawyer can help you recover the compensation you are entitled to by proving the impact a crash had on your life. Don’t let the guilty party pay you less than you deserve, hire a professional that will fight for the proper benefits.