Reckless drivers increase the risks on the road for everyone. Speeding, for example, contributed to 27 percent of traffic fatalities in 2017. Each year, more than 700 people die as a result of drivers running red lights. Reckless driving makes it more difficult both for the reckless driver to control his vehicle and for other drivers to effectively predict the behavior of the reckless driver, which makes it more difficult for those drivers to help prevent motor vehicle accidents on the road.
Types of Reckless Driving
Reckless driving often occurs because a driver needs to rush to his destination, because he grows enraged on the road, or because he simply chooses to ignore basic safety precautions. Some reckless drivers feel they can drive more effectively than other drivers in spite of their distractions. Others may choose to ignore safety precautions as they move forward with their reckless behaviors, including:
Running red lights and stop signs. Red lights and stop signs exist to allow for the smooth flow of traffic through intersections. Normally, drivers carefully take turns proceeding through the intersection, whether by traffic signals or by order. Reckless drivers, on the other hand, may not even briefly stop at those intersections. Others attempt what they mistakenly call a rolling stop: slowing down, but failing to come to a full stop, before progressing through a stop sign or red light.
Speeding. Speeding can quickly decrease a reckless driver’s control of his vehicle. At high rates of speed, drivers may take turns unsafely, miss traffic signs, or fail to notice pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles. In construction zones, speeding can create serious danger for construction workers, who may need to stay on the road to complete their job duties.
Tailgating. Tailgating often occurs as a result of road rage: a frustrated driver brings his car up too close to the car in front, hoping it will encourage that driver to move faster. Unfortunately, tailgating also does not leave drivers enough room to respond if the front car stops or changes direction abruptly, which can seriously increase the odds of an accident.
Swapping erratically between lanes. When a single driver on the road chooses to travel at a high rate of speed, but other drivers fail to match that rate of speed, the speeding driver may change lanes abruptly to get past other drivers. Other drivers may suddenly pull over in front of another vehicle because they need to change lanes quickly. Both of these behaviors can increase the odds that the driver will cause an accident.
Distracted driving. Distraction behind the wheel makes it very difficult for drivers to pay adequate attention to the road or notice what happens around them. Distracted drivers may, for example, fail to notice other vehicles. They also may allow their vehicles to drift out of their lane, miss turns, or plow over a pedestrian or cyclist. Most drivers assume that paying attention to the road means putting down their cell phones, though 36 percent of drivers admit to checking a text message or email behind the wheel within the last month. Distracted driving, however, does not just mean texting and driving. It can also mean:
- Engaging in a conversation in the vehicle and paying more attention to the conversation than to the road
- Checking or changing the GPS
- Eating or drinking, especially messy foods, which can pose a higher rate of distraction than easy-to-eat snacks
- Putting on makeup
- Trying to read or sign paperwork, either for work or for kids
- Changing the station or volume on the radio
- Adjusting the temperature inside the car
- Performing any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road
Driving under the influence. Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol commit a wide range of reckless driving actions. Some speed. Others weave erratically on the road. Drunk or drugged drivers may also choose to drive too slowly to avoid an accident, though this action may not actually keep those drivers safer. While most drivers assume that not driving under the influence means avoiding alcohol before driving, even prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause drivers to behave erratically or struggle to pay attention to the road.
Avoiding Reckless Driving as a Driver
Many drivers want to keep themselves safer on the road, which means avoiding potential reckless driving behaviors. If you want to keep yourself safer, try these important techniques.
- Have a designated driver or a plan for getting home if you plan to drink. When you head out for a night with friends, know ahead of time how you will get home at the end of the evening, whether you have a designated driver or plan to summon an Uber or Lyft driver. When you have a plan ahead of time, it decreases the odds that you will try to drunkenly take your own vehicle home in spite of the dangers.
- Know how new medications affect you before you get behind the wheel. In many cases, drivers discover only when behind the wheel that a new medication causes serious problems with gross motor functions, attention, or drowsiness. When you take a new medication for the first time, especially a pain medication or cold and flu medication, take the time to learn how that medication impacts you. If it causes distraction or drowsiness, avoid driving while on that medication.
- Leave adequate time to reach your destination. Many people speed or otherwise drive recklessly out of fear of lateness: they increase their rate of speed substantially to cut time off the drive. Unfortunately, speeding often fails to help drivers actually reach their destination faster—and in some cases, it may make it take much longer to reach your destination, since if you cause an accident, you may spend a great deal of time at the scene of the accident or, worse, at the hospital due to serious injuries.
- Avoid road rage. Many drivers behave erratically on the road due to road rage. Rising tension and anger often cause drivers to behave in ways they would not ordinarily consider. When you find yourself annoyed or irritated on the road, take steps to calm yourself down before you start raging. Ultimately, staying calm can help you reach your destination more safely.
- Slow down. Make sure you keep an eye on the posted speed limit, especially if you must drive on an unfamiliar road. On familiar roads, you may grow more tempted to raise your speed due to increased comfort. If needed, set your cruise control or use your GPS to notify you about the posted speed limit. Keep your vehicle at the speed limit, rather than rushing ahead to your destination. Remember, speeding will not substantially decrease the time it takes to reach your destination during most short trips, but it can significantly raise accident risk.
- Signal your intentions clearly. Other drivers rely on your turn signals to let them know where you plan to move, whether you need to change lanes or plan to make a turn. Use your turn signals. If you do not signal, other drivers may struggle more to avoid your vehicle, which can greatly increase your odds of causing an accident.
- Leave your cell phone where you will not answer it. Cell phones pose one of the most potent distractions for many drivers. If you frequently find yourself tempted to “just check it quickly,” your eyes probably left the road for as much as five seconds. In that time, your vehicle can travel the length of a football field or more, depending on your rate of speed. If you cannot keep your eyes off your phone when you drive, put it somewhere that you cannot answer it: in the back seat, under your seat, or even in the trunk of the vehicle. Your dedication to removing distractions from your vehicle should also extend to your smartwatch or connected devices that might display your text messages or calls.
- Wait until you reach your destination to engage in distracting activities. Most drivers have, at one point or another, given in to temptation and munched on a fry. When it comes to severely distracting activities behind the wheel, however, you should wait until you reach your destination if at all possible. Wait to eat until you arrive at home. Save sips on your coffee or smoothie until you reach your destination. If you must engage in an intense conversation, pull off the road. All of these little steps can go a long way toward decreasing reckless and distracted driving behaviors.
- Take care of your vehicle before you start driving. Before you put your car in drive, make sure you took care of everything you need. Adjust the seats and the rearview mirror. Set the radio to your preferred station and volume. Set your temperature controls. All of these steps need to be accomplished before you start driving, rather than after you pull out on the road.
- Leave plenty of following distance when behind other drivers. Tailgating another driver will not get you to your destination faster. Most of the time, it will not encourage that other driver to get a move on, either. Instead, make sure that you leave adequate space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Try to leave room for another vehicle to fit in. If traveling at a high rate of speed, you should have at least three seconds between the moment the other vehicle passes a specific landmark and the moment yours does.
Avoiding Reckless Drivers
When you notice a reckless driver on the road, you might feel like you have few options. What if that reckless driver causes an accident? How should you respond? Fortunately, you can avoid reckless drivers and keep yourself and your passengers safer. Follow some of these important steps:
- Get out of the way, if possible. If you notice a reckless driver speeding ever closer to you, get out of the way. You cannot stop the driver from behaving recklessly, nor should you use your vehicle to attempt to control the other driver’s behaviors. Do not try to block off a lane or prevent a reckless driver from passing you, since this could cause road rage or, eventually, even more reckless behavior. Instead, try to get out of the way of the reckless driver. You may need to reduce your rate of speed to make passing easier or change lanes to get out of the way.
- Pull off the road, if needed. In some cases, you may need to pull off the road to get away from a reckless driver. Try to choose a safe spot to pull over, out of the way of any other traffic. Do not engage in reckless behaviors yourself to get away from the reckless driver. Instead, pull carefully off the road. You may want to pull into a gas station or other safe location to give yourself time to breathe and recover before moving forward. If the reckless driver attempts to follow you, do not get out of your vehicle.
- Call the police, if you can. Once you pull safely off the road, call the police and report the reckless driver. Include information about the driver’s exact behaviors as well as any information you can recall about the car. If possible, take note of the other driver’s license plate. While you cannot safely stop a reckless driver, the police can pull him over, discover the reason for the reckless behavior, and ensure that he does not further endanger others on the road.
Flora Templeton Stuart, Kentucky Car Accident Attorney
When you share the road with a reckless driver, it can substantially increase your risk of an accident, even if you do everything right. If you suffered serious injuries in a reckless driving accident, speaking with an experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand the process of filing your claim, and seeking the compensation you deserve for your injuries.