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There's a fine line between careless and reckless driving

You may be like other Georgia residents who become complacent behind the wheel. Perhaps you drive the same route so often that you do it mindlessly. You may feel as if you drive home or to work on autopilot and your car "knows the way there."

Many people do it. Unfortunately, it can sometimes lead to drawing the attention of law enforcement officers patrolling the roadways. If the officer decides to write you a ticket, would it be better for it to be for careless driving or reckless driving?

What's the difference?

Most people believe that careless driving and reckless driving are the same thing. Both of them cover offenses such as the following:

  • Running a red light
  • Speeding
  • Veering over the center line
  • Racing

Whether an officer writes a ticket for careless driving or reckless driving may depend on the circumstances. The distinction between the two is whether the officer believes you acted with wanton disregard for the safety of others. Careless driving tickets often result from an officer believing that a driver did not commit the offense with malice, unlike reckless driving. Careless driving often means that you simply failed to heed traffic laws but didn't necessarily mean to do so.

In addition, police often charge drivers with reckless driving after an accident caused by drunk driving, drowsy driving or distracted driving. This may be because accidents involving these types of behaviors end up being largely preventable, which indicates a wanton disregard for safety.

Does it matter which ticket you get?

Yes, it matters. Careless driving is still a traffic offense. If you fail to successfully challenge the ticket, then you pay a fine, receive points on your license and perhaps pay a higher insurance premium. On the other hand, reckless driving is a misdemeanor, which means you could end up with a conviction on your record in addition to those other penalties. You could also face jail time and the suspension of your license in some instances.

Instead of leaving it to chance and risking these penalties, you may be better off challenging the charge. Yes, it may be a misdemeanor, but that does not mean that a conviction won't have adverse effects on your life.

For example, if you drive for a living or even as part of your job duties, a conviction for reckless driving could jeopardize your ability to perform your job duties, which, in turn, would jeopardize your employment. Even if you don't drive, a blemish on your record could still cause you trouble at work or when you apply for a job, housing or college.

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