What is Considered Reckless Driving in NY?

What is Considered Reckless Driving in NY?

What is Considered Reckless Driving in NY?

Typically, in New York accidents and crashes are caused due to a careless driver making a mistake on the road.  For all intents and purposes, carelessness is negligence. But what is recklessness?  


To help you understand what is meant by reckless driving or recklessness, and what may ensue if you are injured due to the negligence of a reckless driver, keep reading. Hopefully, this will be information that you never need to use. Rest assured that if you are struck by a reckless driver, securing legal representation and putting what you learn here to good use will make moving past the ordeal a little easier. 

A Working Definition of Reckless Driving

In the broadest sense, reckless driving has to do with a disregard for the safety of others. It involves engaging in actions while behind the wheel that have a strong chance of resulting in injury to a person.  Typically the law will evaluate the actions of an individual by asking whether the person acted with a gross disregard for the health and rights of other people in the community.  

While negligence of drivers on the road is taken seriously in New York State, reckless driving or gross negligence is taken even more seriously and opens that driver up to punitive damages claims.  Laws and provisions exist within the state's codes that are designed to discourage this type of activity. Moreover, those laws include a number of penalties that may result a higher amount in damages owed in a civil case or can result in a criminal conviction.

The Laws Associated With New York Reckless Driving

The best way to understand the laws and codes related to reckless driving is to look closely at the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law 1212. The law provides a legal definition for this type of action, and determines the sort of penalties that may apply.


Please note, from a criminal viewpoint, that that gives officers a large degree of latitude in determining if certain driving activities qualify as reckless. While still working within the definition found in this law, the arresting officer must identify what it was about the driver's actions driving that could be construed as reckless. This is a good point to keep in mind, especially if the driver in question does not believe that he or she engaged in any reckless acts.  

What's Legally Considered an Act of Reckless Driving in New York State?

So what are some of the examples of reckless driving, according to New York State law? Here are a few situations that would apply:


  • Failing to stop at a police barricade: if the driver proceeded through the barricade without the express permission of officers, that presents a danger to not only the person behind the wheel; it's also a danger to other drivers and any pedestrians who are in the area.

  • Driving off the road at a high speed: While this is not likely to apply if in a rural area while driving through open acreage with no one around, it would definitely apply if there are others in sight, and the speed would make it difficult to stop.

  • Improper use of an exit ramp: taking an exit, then deciding to get back on the main road by making a U-turn and cutting across lanes of traffic qualifies as endangering others on or by the road.

  • Crossing over the center line at an accelerated speed: passing another vehicle is one thing, but crossing the line without properly checking for oncoming traffic poses a danger to anyone currently using either lane. If there's a crash as a result of the driver's negligence, a charge of reckless driving is sure to be in the mix.

  • Getting behind the wheel while under the influence: this applies to the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, and even prescription medication that can impair concentration and response time. If an impaired driver is pulled over and the officer has reason to think that said driver is under the influence and poses a threat to others, a trip to the police station is about to happen.

  • A trucking carrier failing to abide by federal trucking guidelines designed to ensure that truck drivers are driving safely on the road. 


Keep in mind these are not the only examples of reckless driving. Any action while behind the wheel that is considered excessive and poses a threat to others may be considered reckless.

Fines and Penalties Associated With Reckless Driving Charges

Now that you have some idea of what constitutes reckless driving in New York, what about the possible penalties? To begin, understand that reckless driving in the state is considered a misdemeanor. That means convicted drivers should expect fines. Depending on the specific nature of the offense, there may be other penalties to go with the fine.


The penalty for reckless driving in NY does take into account any infractions on the driver's record, the nature of the activity itself, and to what degree potential harm to others was present. With that in mind, this is what the reckless driver could face:


  • For a first offense within the last 18 months, there will be a fine along with a surcharge. It may range anywhere from $188.00 to $393.00. There may be up to 30 days of jail time to serve. The driver would likely accrue five points on his or her driving record. If other offenses are committed, such as running traffic lights that will mean additional points.

  • A second offense in the same window of time brings stiffer penalties. Fines and surcharges of somewhere between $788.00 and $1,218.00 are likely. This will earn ten points instead of five. The convicted party could also be looking at a maximum of 90 days of jail time.

  • A third offense for reckless driving in the last 18 months will cost the driver dearly. The fines and surcharges will be $1,163.00 to $2,193.00. 15 points will show up on his or her driving record. As for jail time, that could be up to six months.


Don't write off the points as inconsequential. Accruing a total of 11 points within 18 months is all it takes for the state's DMV to pull a driver's license. A restoration of driving privileges will not be easy; the specifics will depend on the number of convictions within the last 18 months, and how well the reckless driver complies with the court's requirements. 

What a Conviction of Reckless Driving Can Lead To

Along with the penalties, accumulation of points, and possible jail time, there are other ways that being convicted of the reckless driving misdemeanor will have a negative impact. Some of them may fade over time, but others may remain for a long time.


Consider the following:


  • The driver now has a criminal record. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor; that's considerably more serious than getting a parking ticket. Any time a criminal background check is conducted, the information will show up.
  • The conviction affects the ability to afford and to obtain auto insurance. The provider may drop the client as soon as the conviction is final. Even if the provider elects to continue offering insurance, the cost for coverage will increase by a significant amount. That's because the driver is no longer considered a good risk.
  • Financing purchases may become a problem. Whether the plan is to buy real estate, a new car, or borrow money for a vacation, there are lenders who will hesitate to work with anyone with this type of arrest record. That means seeking out high-risk lenders, and hoping they will be willing to work with the person who chose to make poor choices while behind the wheel.
  • A suspended or revoked license. All driving privileges suspended for a time. They can be restored once the driver complies with the court's requirements for classes and other activities. In more dire situations, the driver may never quality for a driver's license again. 
  • Lasting impact on job or career opportunities. Applying for positions that require background checks will decrease the potential for being considered. Once the employer sees what's on the criminal record, that may be all it takes to move on to the next candidate. 


There are other short and long-term consequences of a reckless driving conviction. Whatever the circumstances, it will be a long time before things are normal again.

Get Help From a Lawyer Today

The bottom line is that a conviction for reckless driving in New York is a serious offense. If you were injured as the result of a reckless driver, secure legal representation to ensure that you are adequately compensated for the damages.  Your lawyer will know how to structure the case and seek all the compensation that current laws allow. 

If you don't feel as if you have to go through the aftermath of being injured by a reckless driver by yourself. You'll find that a Linden Law's lawyer understands these types of cases, and can provide the advice and representation that you need. Things may not be as dark as they seem.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact the team at Linden Law today.

FAQs About Reckless Driving in New York State

1. What could be the penalty for reckless driving in NYC?

The penalty that comes with a conviction depends on whether it's a first offense or if more convictions have occurred in the last 18 months. Expect a monetary penalty, the accumulation of points on the convicted party's driving record, and the possibility of a jail sentence.

2. How many points result from reckless driving in New York?

Convictions for reckless driving in New York accrue five points per incident. If there are other crimes associated with the driving, those will be added. If the driver has more than 11 points, all driving privileges are lost.

3. Is it possible to report someone for reckless driving in NYC?

Yes. Anyone can report driving that's erratic and putting others in danger. Call 911 to report the activity. Be prepared to provide the location, the make, model, and color of the vehicle, and anything about the license plate and the driver that you were able to glimpse.

4. What is reckless driving in New York?

Driving that interferes with the use of public roads, or that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to other drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists constitutes reckless driving.

5. Is it possible to go to jail for reckless driving in NY?

Yes. The particulars of the case will determine if a judge decides to impose a sentence and then consider the time served. Depending on what took place recently and any other offenses that occurred in the last 18 months, the driver could serve up to six months for the current conviction. That does not factor in jail time for any other offenses that may be involved.

6. What can victims of reckless driving do?

Anyone who is injured or sustains property damage as a result of the driver's negligence does have the option of pursuing compensation. A lawyer will review the particulars of the case, identify the amount of compensation to seek, and pursue the case on your behalf.  

Categories: All, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Your Rights

(212) 804-8440