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Washington Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is defined in RCW 46.61.500 as “operating a motor vehicle with a willful or unwanted disregard for safety of persons or property.” This fairly broad definition allows the arresting officer great latitude when deciding whether to issue a warning, an infraction such as Negligent Driving in the Second Degree or Reckless Driving. On the other hand, because of this definition it can often be difficult for the prosecution to prove. Spinning tires/losing traction; driving too fast for conditions; and embracing while driving are all potentially Reckless Driving.

“Racing” of any motor vehicle or motor vehicles upon any public highway of this state is also prohibited. RCW 46.61.530. Any person who willfully compares or contests relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles shall be guilty of racing, which shall constitute Reckless Driving, whether or not such speed is in excess of the maximum speed. However, any comparison or contest of the accuracy with which motor vehicles may be operated in terms of relative speeds not in excess of the posted maximum speed does not constitute racing.

Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Reckless Driving also has a mandatory 30-day license suspension and three years of high-risk insurance (SR-22), which would begin at the time of sentencing. Although you would be eligible for an occupational/educational license immediately, the application process cannot begin until sentencing. Reckless Driving is considered a “major moving violation,” three convictions of which in a five year period result in a determination of the driver being a Habitual Traffic Offender and a seven year license suspension.

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