Careless Driving Vs Reckless Driving

The last thing anybody expects when they are driving is to be involved in an accident with a careless or negligent driver. However, vehicle accidents are not uncommon throughout the state of Oregon. If you or somebody you care about is involved in an accident caused by the actions of another driver, it is crucial to understand some of the definitions you will hear in these situations. Particularly, you need to know whether or not “careless driving” and “reckless driving” are the same things.

What Oregon law says about reckless driving

Oregon law makes it clear that reckless driving is a serious offense in this state. When we turn to ORS 811.140, we can see that the law states, “A person commits the offense of reckless driving if the person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property.”

This law points to another area of Oregon statutes that say that recklessness is defined as a person being aware of and consciously disregarding “a substantial and unjustifiable risk.” The law then states that the risk must be of such nature and degree that the risk would constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in a similar situation.

Reckless driving is typically going to be classified as a Class A misdemeanor offense that could result in a person facing up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,250. This conviction will also likely result in a driver’s license suspension.

What Oregon law says about careless driving

We can find Oregon’s definition of careless driving in ORS 811.135. This law states that a driver commits the offense of careless driving “if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

Careless driving in Oregon differs from reckless driving because it is not necessary to prove that a driver knowingly did something behind the wheel that they knew to be risky. A person could be convicted of careless driving if they commit an offense without realizing the dangerousness of their driving.

Penalties for careless driving are typically less severe than the penalties for reckless driving. In general, careless driving will be a Class B traffic violation with fines between $130 and $1,000. Careless driving involving an accident could result in a Class A traffic violation with fines ranging from $220 to $2,000. Careless driving involving an injury or fatality can result in more severe penalties.

Careless driving and DUI charges

Many people have heard that it is possible for a driver charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs to plea the charge down to a lesser charge. Some states allow DUI charges to be pled down to reckless driving. However, Oregon law prohibits plea bargaining in DUI cases.

Compensation for injury victims

Any person injured as a result of reckless or careless driving could be entitled to compensation from the person that caused the accident. This could include coverage for their medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering damages, and more. Punitive damages are generally not awarded in car accident cases, but will be more likely to be awarded in the event a person is convicted of reckless driving because this shows that the offending driver knew that their actions were likely to cause injury and chose to proceed anyway.