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Aggressive driving vs. reckless driving

People’s driving style is as unique as their signature. While it involves a certain amount of skill, a certain mindset also dictates how you drive. It leads to disparities where a driver feels like they are in complete control and acting safe, while another driver or law enforcement watching thinks the driver is too aggressive. The question then becomes: When does aggressive driving become reckless driving?

Defining recklessness

While there were only 7,489 reckless driving convictions in 2020, which was by all accounts an unusual driving year, Georgia sees about 10,000 to 12,000 over the last 15 years. Reckless driving is generally operating a vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for their safety and others. In law enforcement’s eyes, this goes typically beyond breaking the rules of the road, which is a traffic offense. Reckless drivers are driving “with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.” It is one of the more severe driving offenses and may involve such misdemeanor penalties as $1,000 fines and/or 12 months of incarceration. It also adds points to a driver’s record.

Common examples:

  • Racing another vehicle
  • Driving 25 mph or more above the speed limit
  • Trying to outrun law enforcement
  • Aggressive lane changing without a signal
  • Weaving through traffic
  • Passing another vehicle on a two-lane road with limited visibility of oncoming traffic
  • Passing in no-passing zones
  • Tailgating

It comes down to intent

Law enforcement and judges weigh intent when it comes to reckless driving. However, as with some other areas of law, there is room for interpretation. The driver accused of reckless driving may argue that it was not their intent to act recklessly.

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