A motorcyclist traveling in the northbound lanes of I-95, suffered fatal injuries after “popping a wheelie.” Witnesses to the accident say the man on the Honda motorcycle was trying to impress a woman in a nearby car. The motorcycle spun out of control, smashing into a light pole and careening over a wall to the street below. While no other drivers were injured in the accident, the impact was so severe that the motorcycle caught fire, and debris was scattered on the highway and on Northwest Third Ave.
The motorcyclist, believed to be in his early 20’s was traveling at a high rate of speed and engaging in risky behaviors, and, while he was wearing a helmet, at such speeds, a helmet alone will not save a life. This particular motorcycle accident is believed to be part of a much-larger trend across the nation. Modified motorcycles are often involved in the fatal crashes and reckless driving is a hallmark. Motorcyclists are not the only drivers guilty of reckless driving.
Speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic–all of these behaviors result in the same outcome, which is reckless driving. Reckless driving puts you, the driver, at risk for an accident with serious injuries or death, and puts other drivers as risk for the same. When you engage in reckless driving, your reaction time is effectively cut in half, meaning you are much less able to avoid potential hazards on the road. Because of the serious repercussions associated with reckless driving, the state of Florida has made it a significant offense, carrying harsh penalties.
Florida Statute 316.192 defines reckless driving as “any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Although the offense is a misdemeanor, punishments can include a fine as large as $500, and as much as three months in jail–or both. A second offense doubles those penalties. If there was significant property damage involved or your reckless driving resulted in serious bodily harm to a passenger in your vehicle or another driver, you could face a third-degree offense, punishable by up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail.
Careless driving actually involves the same offenses, however the offenses are committed without the wanton disregard for the safety of others. In other words, the speeding, following too closely or weaving through traffic were mostly unintentional slip-ups committed by drivers who were not paying attention to the roadways or who simply misjudged distances. A careless driving citation can generally be dismissed with completion of a Florida-approved traffic school course.
Reckless driving in 2014 is akin to what drunk driving was prior to the 1980’s; it is often poorly defined under current laws, poorly investigated by law enforcement, and rarely results in criminal charges. A New York Post story reported that more than 21 taxi drivers are responsible for injuring or killing pedestrians and bicyclists in the city over the past five years, yet only one of those was criminally charged.
Those who have been victims of reckless drivers or have lost a loved one due to a reckless driver find it hard to reconcile the crime with the relatively light sentencing. Deliberately driving in a reckless manner, knowingly putting others in harm’s way, definitely deserves a punishment which fits the crime. Unfortunately, reckless driving can be difficult to prove, as it involves a certain state of mind. For this reason, many reckless driving charges are eventually bumped down to careless driving charges. Reckless driving can forever alter lives, and deserves serious consideration by lawmakers.