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Distinctions between reckless and careless driving in New Jersey

There are numerous driving offenses that can potentially be lodged against New Jersey road users. Two frequent offenses are reckless and careless driving.

Often, there can be confusion over the difference between these two offenses. However, the consequences of being charged with one crime or the other are gravely different. Reckless driving is considered a more serious offense that brings more severe punishments. As a result, it is important to try and distinguish between the two offenses.

What is careless driving?

The law relating to careless driving is outlined in NJSA 39:4-97. The definition of careless driving may be summarized as driving without due caution in a manner that endangers other people or property. Crucially, the law assumes no malice in this offense. A typical example may be when a driver veers into another lane without noticing.

Whether or not driving qualifies as careless or reckless is left in the hands of the law enforcement dealing with the case. The onus is also on the prosecution to prove carelessness, it cannot be inferred.

What is reckless driving?

NJSA 39:4-96. sets out the law relating to reckless driving. The key distinction between reckless and careless driving is that for the former there must be intent. The actions of the driver must display the characteristic of intending to endanger and cause harm to other people or property.

Again, it will be up to the arresting officer to determine whether an offense amounts to reckless driving. Furthermore, the law requires witnesses to come forward and attest to the recklessness. Potential witnesses may include other motorists, pedestrians and police officers.

Common examples of reckless driving can include grossly exceeding the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic in a dangerous manner. Moreover, it is common for DUI offenders to be charged with reckless driving on top of their DUI offense.

Understanding the law relating to driving offenses in New Jersey could be in your best interests. If you are facing charges for traffic violations, it is important to know that you have legal rights.