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Home > Blog > What Would Be Considered Reckless Driving?

Did you know that South Carolina is home to some of the worst drivers in the country? A 2022 study by Car Insurance Comparison listed South Carolina as number three in their list of states with the worst drivers in the United States. South Carolina tied for second worst in careless driving and speeding. South Carolina’s third-worst ranking was based largely on its total death rate per million miles traveled—1.73. This rate is the worst in the country.

It is unclear why South Carolina ranks in the top for “worst states” for drivers. Most of the causes of fatal car accidents are due to speeding and impaired driving, and South Carolina has specific laws prohibiting these bad driving behaviors. Nonetheless, reckless driving still occurs. If you find yourself in a car accident with a reckless driver, call the car accident lawyers at HawkLaw, P.A. Our law office will help you assert your claim and work hard to get you the compensation you deserve to address your injuries. Contact us online or call 888-HAWKLAW.

man driving while eating

What Does South Carolina Consider Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is more than just driving irrationally. Instead, South Carolina’s traffic laws specifically define reckless driving as follows:

Driving a vehicle in such a manner to indicate either willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

The term “willful or wanton” means something more than driving in a careless manner. It is essentially being knowingly negligent, disregarding the safety of others.

In 1950, the South Carolina Supreme Court stated that speed alone might not be reckless driving. Instead, a court will consider all of the various facts surrounding the particular situation. Examples of these facts might include:

  • Where the driver was traveling
  • The character and condition of the highway
  • The time the alleged reckless driving occurred
  • Whether any other vehicles or people were nearby
  • Weather conditions
  • Whether it was daytime or nighttime
  • Weight and load of the offending vehicle
  • Familiarity with the highway
  • Opportunity for observation of the line of travel
  • The general ability to stop to avoid a collision

South Carolina courts can clearly take a lot of factors into consideration when determining whether a driver was reckless. However, the examination often comes down to two questions:

  1. Was the driver acting reasonably for the conditions (was he negligent?) and
  2. Did the driver know he was acting inappropriately under the circumstances?

For instance, a driver speeding five miles over the speed limit might not realize they are driving over the speed limit, so the act is negligent. A driver who is traveling 40 miles over the speed limit likely knows that they are going too fast for the area, but they consciously decide to travel that fast regardless. In that situation, the driver traveling 40 miles over the speed limit is likely engaging in reckless driving.

What is Considered Reckless Driving Speed?

Reckless driving speed in South Carolina is defined under the South Carolina Code of Laws SECTION 56-5-2920. It encompasses operating a vehicle at speeds that greatly exceed legal limits, posing a significant danger to the public and property. Driving at speeds more than 25 miles per hour over the posted limit is often considered reckless driving. Such actions jeopardize not only the safety of the driver but also that of passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians.

Seven Types of Reckless Driving

a car passing another car in the left lane

Reckless driving contributes to driving fatalities across the United States, with speeding playing the largest role. Perhaps the best way to understand reckless driving is to consider examples of situations where reckless driving may occur.

Reckless Driving

In general, if a driver is operating their vehicle over 25 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, they may be cited with reckless driving. However, reckless driving for excessive speed can vary based on the circumstances as well. If the weather conditions warranted a slower speed, for example, that might be considered when evaluating whether reckless driving occurred.

Distracted Driving

Deliberate distractions can end up being reckless driving in some cases. The longer the distraction occurs, the more likely it is to amount to reckless driving. Common causes of distracted driving include cell phones and other technology, passengers, and eating and drinking.


Tailgating and other aggressive driving behaviors are often deliberate acts of reckless driving. Tailgating can be extremely dangerous because it does not give a driver enough time to stop safely. It is even more dangerous at higher speeds.


Racing is prohibited based on several local and county ordinances. It is extremely dangerous on both highways and roads throughout town. Any racing activity is often considered reckless driving.

Knowingly Violating Traffic Laws

Traffic laws are there for a reason — they keep other drivers and pedestrians safe. When drivers ignore these laws, they put everyone around them at risk. Some common examples include running a red light, stop sign, or another traffic signal. Even deliberately passing a stopped school bus, failing to use a turn signal, or ignoring the right-of-way can be considered reckless driving.

Driving Under the Influence

When a motorist is intoxicated from alcohol or another drug, the driver’s reflexes are often slowed, their cognitive judgment is impaired, and their driving skills are simply worse than if they drove sober. The likelihood of a serious auto accident increases substantially when a driver is impaired. Be sure to contact a South Carolina car accident attorney if you believe drunk driving caused the motor vehicle accident.

Road Rage

Road rage occurs when a driver acts aggressively around other drivers, such as by speeding, making unsafe lane changes, or “brake checking” drivers behind them. Aggressive driving is usually deliberate, so it can rise to the level of reckless behavior in many situations.

Common Injuries Caused by Reckless Driving Accidents

Reckless driving can result in a wide variety of very serious injuries. Because the actions of the driver are particularly egregious when a driver is reckless, the injuries involved can be even worse than in the average car accident case.

Examples of injuries caused by traffic accidents involving reckless driving might include:

  • Broken bones
  • Brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Severe soft tissue damage

Injuries from a reckless driving case might not appear severe at first, but they can have long-term negative effects on car accident victims.

What is the Most Common Punishment for Reckless Driving?

a man driving with a beer in his hand

Reckless driving in South Carolina is a misdemeanor crime. The state can fine drivers up to $200 for their first offense. Repeat offenders can get points on their driver’s licenses. If a driver has several charges of reckless driving within a certain period of time, their license may be suspended as well.

Reckless driving often will not result in jail time unless the reckless driving charge is related to driving while intoxicated.

When Can I Sue a Driver for Reckless Driving?

In general, if a reckless driver caused an accident, you may be able to sue that driver to recover for any losses related to the accident.

South Carolina is a “fault” state. That means that the at-fault driver in a collision must pay for any injuries or damage they cause because of their actions. The at-fault driver is legally liable because of their reckless driving.

What Damages Can I Recover from a Reckless Driver?

South Carolina law allows car accident victims to recover any losses they suffered because of the actions of an at-fault driver. These losses could be very narrow, or they can cover a wide range of damages. Below are a few examples of damages you might be able to recover for your injury claim.

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship (for loved ones)
  • Future loss of earnings
  • Future medical expenses
  • Property damage

Every vehicle accident case is different, so the money damages that you could receive after an accident will vary.

Damages are supposed to compensate you for the losses you experienced. So, if you did lose any time from work, for example, lost wage damages likely will not be an option for you, but covering medical bills may be. Talk to a dedicated car accident lawyer for legal advice on the specific damages you might be able to receive in your personal injury case.

How to Protect Yourself from Reckless Drivers

Unfortunately, completely avoiding reckless drivers might not be an option. However, some defensive driving tactics can help you protect yourself and your loved ones on the road.

  • Keep your distance from other drivers. Be sure that you follow other drivers at a safe distance, giving yourself plenty of time to react in an emergency situation. Use 3 or 4 seconds between cars in high-speed areas.
  • Monitor your blind spots carefully. Blind spots are dangerous. While new technology has helped address blind spot issues, it has not completely solved the problem. Check your blind spots with a quick look over your shoulders from time to time, especially before changing lanes.
  • Be conscious of other drivers’ blind spots. Make efforts to determine where other drivers’ blind spots may be so you can avoid them. This is particularly important when traveling near large vehicles, as their blind spots can be huge.
  • Avoid distracted or dangerous drivers. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of the way. If you notice that a driver is swerving or fading in and out of a lane, move away. If a driver is acting erratically, slow down or change lanes to move away from them. If you suspect a driver is intoxicated, consider calling the police so the authorities can address the situation.
  • Assume the worst. The best defensive drivers assume the worst of other drivers. For instance, making an assumption that a driver is going to run through a stop sign or fail to yield properly can help avoid accidents altogether.

Do Your Part to Keep South Carolina Roadways Safe from Reckless Drivers

Reckless driving is plain wrong. It puts others on the road in danger. If you are injured by a reckless driver, you may have options to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. Our South Carolina personal injury lawyers may be able to help you collect compensation for your injuries and hold reckless drivers accountable for their actions. Contact our law firm to learn more during your free consultation.*

Remember, if you see someone driving recklessly, you can call *47 or 911 to report them.

John D. Hawkins

Founder and CEO

John Hawkins is the Founder and CEO of HawkLaw He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation with honors in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was on the Law Review and Order of Wig and Robe.

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