In early 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published an open letter to the public about a disturbing increase in reckless driving activities.
According to the NHTSA, fewer Americans were on the road in 2020, but those who did drive were significantly more likely to make risky driving decisions. Reckless driving trends include a rise in excessive speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and driving without wearing a seat belt.
If you were injured in a Denver car accident caused by a reckless driver, you have the right to seek justice and compensation for your losses. Contact the Denver reckless driving accident attorneys at Olson Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation to learn more.
What Is Considered Reckless Driving in Denver?
Reckless driving is a serious driving offense in Denver. Driving recklessly is typically considered more dangerous than careless driving, improper driving, or committing driving errors. The term “reckless driving” points to a broad category of hazardous driving behaviors, so it can be difficult to define.
Common Examples of Reckless Driving Include
- Exceeding posted speed limits or driving too fast for conditions
- Weaving in and out of traffic or into lanes of oncoming cars
- Speeding around blind curves or hills
- Tailgating and cutting others off in traffic
- Illegal racing on public roadways
- Ignoring red lights, stop signs, and other traffic-control devices
- Driving while distracted by things like text messages or phone calls
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Succumbing to “road rage” and intentionally trying to intimidate or even harm others
- Operating a vehicle that is not safe to drive
- Failure to signal turns or yield the right-of-way
Denver Reckless Driving Laws
Under Colorado law, reckless driving is loosely defined as driving a motor vehicle with “a wanton or a willful disregard” for the safety of other people and their property. This is distinct from careless driving, which is a lesser traffic offense.
Careless driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle without “due regard” for the conditions and circumstances of the road. This includes things like the width, grade, curvature, traffic congestion, and public use of streets and highways.
Careless driving and reckless driving are closely related, and sometimes the difference between the offenses is only a matter of degree rather than kind. A conviction of either reckless or careless driving is a class two misdemeanor in Colorado, though the penalties for each offense differ slightly.
In some cases, drivers charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Colorado accept plea bargains for relatively lesser reckless driving charges. This type of charge is often referred to as a “wet reckless” charge.
Keep in mind that a reckless driver can be held civilly liable for causing a crash even if they don’t face criminal charges, the charges are dropped, or they are acquitted. Civil car accident claims are separate matters from traffic violations and require less proof.
How Reckless Driving Causes Crashes
Reckless drivers put themselves and others at serious risk of traffic crashes because:
- Reckless drivers make frequent errors. When drivers behave recklessly, they are more likely to make dangerous driving errors and crash. Common reckless driving errors include unsafe passing maneuvers, overcompensation errors, taking turns too quickly, and loss of control.
- Reckless drivers ignore potential hazards. If a reckless driver is dangerously distracted or solely focused on their own right-of-way, they may be too preoccupied to notice debris, obstructions, or even other motorists on the road.
- Reckless drivers do not follow traffic laws. Reckless drivers often display a willful disregard for traffic laws designed to keep everyone safe. Reckless driving crashes can occur when motorists ignore speed limits, traffic signs, red lights, or other drivers’ right-of-way.
Injuries Caused by Reckless Driving Car Accidents
Reckless driving accidents frequently occur at high speeds, which increases the likelihood of serious injuries, such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating injuries
- Facial injuries, dental injuries, scarring, and permanent disfigurement
- Broken bones in the arms, legs, pelvis, spine, and ribcage
- Internal injuries, such as internal bleeding and organ rupture
- Spinal cord injuries, including vertebral fractures and herniated discs
- Traumatic or surgical amputations of the upper or lower limbs
- Burn injuries from fires, scalding materials, or direct contact with rough surfaces
- Post-traumatic stress disorder from the deeply shocking trauma of an accident
Penalties for Reckless Driving in Denver
For a first-time reckless driving conviction, Denver drivers can face penalties that may include:
- $150 to $300 in fines; or
- Between 10 and 90 days in jail; and
- Eight demerit points against their license
Those who are convicted of a second or subsequent driving offense may face the following penalties:
- $50 to $1,000 in fines; or
- Between 10 days and six months in jail; and
- An additional eight license demerit points
If a reckless driving accident results in fatal injuries, reckless drivers may face charges of vehicular homicide or additional criminal penalties.
It’s important to note that receiving a ticket and being convicted of reckless driving are criminal charges, which are totally separate from civil charges. Just because a reckless driver is convicted of a misdemeanor crime does not necessarily mean accident victims receive any direct benefits. Not being found guilty of a criminal charge likewise does not mean a reckless driver cannot be held liable for a crash.
To hold a reckless driver financially accountable for your losses, you must file a civil car accident claim for compensation. An attorney can help you determine whether you have grounds for a claim and help you pursue the money you need to recover.
Liability in Reckless Driving Accidents
When you file a reckless driving accident claim, you must demonstrate that the reckless driver was responsible for the crash that caused your injuries and other losses. When a driver is considered at fault in a Denver car accident, the law says they are financially liable for any damages they caused.
To prove that a reckless driver should be held liable for an accident, your attorney can identify and preserve useful evidence of the other driver’s reckless behavior. This could include photographs or video footage of the accident, statements from eyewitnesses, cell phone or GPS records, and other evidence.
Contact a Denver Car Accident Lawyer Today
The car accident attorneys of Olson Law Firm, LLC aggressively stand up for the rights of car accident victims throughout Denver and surrounding communities in Colorado. If you sustained severe injuries in a reckless driving accident, let us fight to maximize your compensation while you concentrate on your health.
Our initial consultations are always free, and unless we recover money for you, you’ll never owe us anything in legal fees. Contact us today to discuss your claim with a knowledgeable lawyer.