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What is Considered Reckless Driving?

Although there is no direct link in California traffic law between reckless driving and speed, separate circumstances could lead a law enforcement officer (LEO) to believe your driving was reckless.

Ultimately, it is up to a judge to determine if your driving behavior was reckless as the LEO thought or just speeding. However, if the LEO writes one ticket for both offenses, they could jeopardize both. You should always consult a traffic attorney before making a statement.

Reckless Driving According to California Traffic Law

What makes a violation reckless driving rather than simply speeding is not how fast you were going, but according to CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23103, Driving Offenses, a person driving “… in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

How Much Over the Speed Limit is Considered Reckless Driving?

Nowhere in CVC 23103 does the law tie any speed with reckless driving. Many articles on the internet state that 25 mph over the speed limit in CA is reckless driving, while others might say over 100 mph is reckless driving. The truth is it is up to the LEO to decide if they should write you a ticket for reckless driving rather than speeding. 

What Is a Speed Contest?

The CVC Section 23109, Driving Offenses, says, “…a motor vehicle speed contest includes a motor vehicle race against another vehicle, a clock, or other timing device.” However, the code goes on to stipulate that a competition to see who covers a certain distance the fastest without exceeding the speed limit, is not a “speed contest.”

That section of CVC also prohibits “aiding or abetting” a speed contest, such as timing the race, setting up roadblocks, or diverting law enforcement by trickery. For expediency, the judge could consider aiding and abetting a “wobbler” and downgrade it to an infraction, depending on the circumstances and the number of people involved.

However, both violations could be a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine of $355 to $1,000, imprisonment in the county jail for 1-90 days, or both. You have the right to remain silent, and you should not speak to anyone until you have talked to an attorney.

Speeding as Defined by California Traffic Law

There are several sections of the CVC that defines speeding, and no traffic law ties reckless driving and speeding together. The basic speed law for California is CVC Section 22350, Speed Laws, which states, “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent…” Therefore, if your driving speed is not “reasonable or prudent,” you might be guilty of speeding, but not the “willful or wanton disregard for the safety” that is required for reckless driving.

Speeding & Traffic Attorneys Who Can Assist You to Resolve a Mojave or Bakersfield Ticket

Contact Bigger & Harman, APC, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

We can handle your speeding ticket, speed contest, or reckless driving charges. We also represent drivers at DMV NOTS hearings.



The 2020 CA Driver Handbook.pdf

CVC Section 22348 (b), 22350, Speed Laws, 23103, & 23109, Driving Offenses

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