This post is part of EverQuote’s Traffic Ticket Series. Learn more about other traffic tickets and how they affect auto insurance here.

Reckless driving is nothing to joke about. It’s a serious traffic offense and a dangerous driving behavior. Citations are typically issued when drivers are negligent and should have been safer behind the wheel. They are common after accidents, when it is clear that a driver was operating a vehicle in an irresponsible way and that a crash could have been avoided.

Fast, Free Auto Insurance Quotes

Examples of Reckless Driving Include:

  • Excessive speeding or driving unsafe for the current conditions
  • Illegally crossing the median line of the road
  • Drunk driving
  • Improper control
  • Passing a car on a curve, passing a school bus
  • Refusing to stop for a police officer
  • Racing

The penalties for reckless driving are usually based on several factors. The severity of the behavior, time of day and the risk posed to others all influence the penalty. Some states even have “per se” laws that state if a certain condition is met, then a driver was driving recklessly without debate. For example, speeding over 20 mph or fleeing law enforcement by car may automatically classify as reckless driving.

Fines and Penalties for Reckless Driving:

  • Fines: Reckless driving fines may range from hundreds of dollars to thousands. For example, a first conviction in Kansas may only get you a $25 fine, while a first conviction in Washington state could hit you with a fine up to $5,000. State-by-state fines may be influenced by whether it is a first-time or repeated offense.  
  • License Suspension: Some states may also issue license suspensions for reckless driving. It could be 30 days or up to 6 months, depending on the state. Also, if your state has a point system, points may be added to your record for reckless driving. If a certain amount of points is met, then your license may be suspended. (In New York, reckless driving leads to 5 points and in Georgia, it leads to 4 points.)
  • Jail or prison: You may be put behind bars for reckless driving. Most states have a maximum punishment for first-time offenders, around 30–60 days. If classified as a misdemeanor that may be up to 1 year in prison. In rare cases, reckless driving may be classified as a felony, which could lead to more severe consequences.

The Effect of Reckless Driving on Car Insurance:

motorcycles lane splitting, reckless driving

When determining your car insurance rate, insurers assess your risk as a driver on their own terms. As a result, there’s no simple answer to how a reckless driving citation will affect your insurance. That said, reckless driving will likely make auto insurers see you as an unsafe and high-risk driver and your premium will be affected because of that.  

The question then is: how much will your auto insurance rise? Some say reckless driving may raise your premium only 22% and others say as high as 63%. Regardless of the range, the cost is big.

In the end, the consequences of a reckless driving violation may vary for several reasons. Here are some of the main factors that affect your rate.

  • Did you report the citation to your carrier? Most insurers check your driving record when you first sign a contract, and at any subsequent renewal. (They may check more often based on your age, location or if you buy a new car.) However, tickets you incur during that in-between period may go unspotted until your record is checked again. Insurers have to pay a fee for your MVR (motorist’s vehicle record), so it is not something that they do constantly. If you recently purchased car insurance, you may not see the effects of reckless driving until you renew.
  • Are you in a “point system” state? Many states have a point system that may affect your insurance rate. Reckless driving leads to multiple points, and that may affect your auto insurance right away.
  • Do you have multiple violations? Having multiple traffic citations may be a warning sign to insurers, and your rate may increase.
  • How long ago was your ticket received? This may also affect your insurance rate. While reckless driving will never officially be removed from your record, carriers usually look at the last 3–5 years.

How to Bring Your Rate Back Down:

Fight the ticket. If you believe you have a solid case, it may be worth fighting the reckless driving citation in court so that you can have it removed from your driving record. This may not be possible on your own, so remember that it may be costly to hire a lawyer.

Wait it out. While traffic tickets never truly disappear from your record, auto insurers typically only look at the last 5 years. That said, they usually do look at serious infractions and depending on your carrier, reckless driving may be considered severe.

Take a defensive driving course to bring your rate down. They aren’t that expensive, and they can pay off big. A defensive driving course may get any driver a discount, but it can be especially handy if you’ve had a lot of infractions.

Knock off some points. If you’re in a state that uses a point system, a safe driving course may reduce your points, which could help save you from a license suspension or revocation depending on your state’s laws.

Check with your agent to be sure you’re receiving all of the discounts that you qualify for. Be sure to mention alumni programs or other organizations as even those can get you car insurance savings.

Reckless driving is dangerous and unsafe. Don’t risk it on the roads. Drive safe and get to your destination without putting yourself or others in harm’s way. Drivers will thank you and your auto insurance will be lower without all those citations.

Unsure about your driving skills? Test them out with EverDrive.

Photo credits: ZeeboidEric Schmuttenmaer