When Does a Traffic Ticket Turn into a Reckless Driving Charge?

Traffic citations are a way of alerting a driver to the fact that their behavior puts them and other people at risk on the roads. Law enforcement officers in Illinois may stop drivers when they notice dangerous driving activities. They will also likely issue a citation when it’s clear that one driver’s decisions directly contributed to a crash.

Many people who receive citations get them for speeding or failing to yield. A smaller subset of people who get ticketed because of a traffic stop or a collision will face reckless driving charges, which are a misdemeanor offense instead of a civil infraction like speeding. What scenarios lead to reckless driving allegations in Illinois?

Most of the time, determining recklessness is up to the officer’s discretion

Many people who get pulled over for reckless driving may have been doing something that they considered mildly unsafe but not reckless, like speeding. However, driving at speeds well over the posted limit, racing and driving the wrong way down a one-way street while speeding are all more dangerous than just exceeding the speed limit while obeying all other traffic laws.

The law about reckless driving in Illinois is somewhat vague and allows officers the discretion to decide whether the driver that they pulled over is actually reckless or just made a bad decision. Recklessness usually implies that they knowingly engaged in a behavior that was dangerous for them and others.

Trying to mimic television and movie stunts can lead to reckless driving charges

It is common in movies ranging from classic comedies from the 1980s to modern action films for drivers to engage very unsafe practices on the road, possibly while fleeing a threat.

For drama’s sake, these vehicles may actually fly off of ramps or otherwise leave the road as a way of making the driving sequence more gripping and exciting. If you intentionally drive in such a way that your vehicle leaves the grounds, even if no one gets hurt, an officer who spots you or who reviews security camera footage that shows you driving like that could charge you with reckless driving because the law specifically references airborne vehicles.

Reckless driving is much more serious than a standard traffic ticket. Thankfully, as with other offenses, you have the right to defend yourself against allegations of reckless driving as an Illinois resident.