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Whether you’re a newly-licensed driver or have been on the road for decades, you’ve probably heard the term “negligent driving.” But what exactly is negligent driving? We did the research to find out what this term means.
The legal definition of negligent driving varies from state to state. But generally speaking, negligent driving is the failure to exercise a reasonable amount of care when behind the wheel of a vehicle. In other words, a negligent driver is simply careless.
If you still have some questions, don’t worry. This can be a confusing topic. We put together a comprehensive guide that will help you better understand negligent driving. We’ll also give you some practical tips to avoid driving negligently. Just keep reading!
Is Negligent Driving The Same As Reckless Driving?
While these terms might seem interchangeable, they’re actually different. Like we mentioned earlier, negligent driving simply refers to a failure to exercise adequate care when driving.
The main difference between the two is that, in the event of an accident caused by negligence, it is presumed that the accident was just that — an accident.
An example of negligent driving is an accident caused by someone under highway hypnosis. In this situation, the driver was careless in that they failed to remain alert behind the wheel, but there was not a willful disregard for safety. Put simply, a reasonable person would agree that this was an accident.
Reckless driving, on the other hand, is a more serious offense. Someone is considered driving recklessly if they willfully disregard the safety of others.
An example of reckless driving is an accident caused by racing. In a situation like this, there is a willful disregard for traffic laws and the safety of pedestrians and other motorists, and any reasonable person would agree.
Even though negligent driving and reckless driving are technically different, it’s important to not minimize the potential consequences of negligent driving. Accidents that result from negligence can be just as catastrophic as those caused by recklessness.
What Are Some Examples Of Negligent Driving?
Some examples of negligent driving include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while mentally and/or physically fatigued
- Failing to adequately maintain the vehicle
- Texting or otherwise driving distracted
- Failing to use turn signals
- Failing to stop at stop signs
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are countless things that equate to negligence behind the wheel.
Is Negligent Driving A Traffic Violation?
Legally, negligent driving is classified differently from state to state. In some states, negligent driving is a civil traffic offense, but in others it’s a misdemeanor.
Do some research into your state’s laws to better understand how negligent driving is classified.
What Is The Penalty For Negligent Driving?
In some states, the line between negligence and recklessness is blurred in terms of legality. In other words, some states view them as more or less the same.
In most states, a conviction for negligent driving in the first degree typically carries a penalty of $50 to $1,000 and up to 90 days or a whole year in jail, depending on the severity of the accident and damage caused. If it is decided that the level of negligence is lower, the penalty is less severe.
How To Avoid Negligence Behind The Wheel
We’ve talked about what negligent driving is and the legal repercussions of an accident caused by negligence, but now we’re going to discuss some practical ways you can avoid driving negligently.
1. Avoid All Distractions
Before the advent of the cell phone, there wasn’t much that distracted drivers. People didn’t get notifications on a mobile device every few minutes, and they didn’t have the temptation to type out a text message while they were behind the wheel. But times have changed.
In today’s day and age, more people drive negligently every single day than ever before. This is largely due to our growing attachment to smartphones and the proliferation of technology inside modern vehicles.
This growing technological saturation is extremely dangerous when it comes to distracted driving. The cell phone is by far the biggest danger here. To avoid the temptation to reach for it while driving, we recommend stowing it out of sight and out of reach. This will help keep your eyes and mind on the road.
2. Only Drive When Well-Rested
If you feel mentally or physically fatigued, don’t drive. You might think you’re fine to drive, but the fact of the matter is that driving fatigued can be just as bad as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your judgment can be impaired and your reaction time can become significantly slower when fatigued.
If you start to get tired on a long trip and you’re by yourself, pull over and rest. If you’re traveling with someone, take frequent breaks.
3. Regularly Inspect Your Vehicle For Mechanical Deficiencies
The mechanical state of your vehicle is another important factor in preventing an accident caused by negligence. As the owner and operator of the car, it’s your responsibility to make sure that it’s safe to drive.
You should familiarize yourself with your state’s laws concerning vehicle operation to ensure that your car is in compliance. Even things like fender flares are regulated.
We also suggest following your manufacturer’s recommended service plan for your particular vehicle in order to keep it in tip-top mechanical shape.
4. Obey All Traffic Laws
This should be common sense, but it needs to be emphasized. Obeying all traffic laws goes a long way toward avoiding accidents, and this brings us to our next tip.
5. Be Situationally Aware At All Times
This tip encompasses all of the others. When you get behind the wheel, the best thing you can do for yourself and for fellow motorists is to be aware of your surroundings.
We hope this guide has helped you better understand what negligent driving is, its dangers, and how to avoid it.
Before you go, be sure to check out these other driving guides -