In Sarasota County, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported almost 6,500 crashes in 2018, 51 of those resulting in fatalities. Florida ranks fourth among the states with the worst drivers.
The Insurance Information Institute reported that in the United States in 2018, there were almost 2,000 deaths because of someone driving in an erratic, reckless or negligent manner. In Florida, police departments stated 87 deaths occurred because of reckless driving.
The meaning of reckless driving
In Florida, reckless driving is not the same as careless driving, although the two may become confused. Careless driving is unintentionally operating a vehicle and disregarding the safety of others and their property. This moving violation may lead to points on the license, higher insurance rates and fines.
Reckless driving is the willful and wanton disregard for other drivers. Willful and wanton conduct means that the driver intended to drive irresponsibly and did not care about the welfare of others. Florida law also adds fleeing law enforcement in a motor vehicle as reckless driving.
Speeding on its own may not warrant a reckless driving charge. To receive a charge of reckless driving, the officer may have to combine other actions, such as speeding through a school zone with no regard for children or driving at “grossly excessive” speeds. An officer may determine driving 100 mph in a 65 mph zone as grossly excessive.
The penalties for reckless driving depend on the charges. These charges may include:
- Reckless driving with a prior conviction
- Property damage because of reckless driving
- Reckless driving causing serious bodily damage
No matter whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, a driver may receive both prison time and fines. A person may receive a life sentence if he or she caused serious bodily damage. The law defines serious bodily damage as an injury to another person who creates a risk of death, disfigurement, or loss or impairment of the function of a part of the body.