When does speeding constitute reckless driving in North Carolina?

When does speeding constitute reckless driving in North Carolina?

Understanding what reckless driving is and what the penalties for it may be is essential for anyone facing the charge.

Most people, at one time or another, have broken the speed limit. There are signs on nearly every road in North Carolina displaying the legal limit a driver may not exceed. However, even the most careful of motorists may go over that number, even momentarily. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, speeding is the most common reason the law enforcement officers pulled over drivers in 2011.

A speeding ticket may appear to be little more than an inconvenient fine. However, especially if a charge of reckless driving stems from the incident, the consequences could be more severe. Here, we take a look at what constitutes reckless driving in North Carolina and what the possible penalties are.

Reckless driving

Under North Carolina’s law, reckless driving could be defined as any driving activity that shows “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others. It also states that moving at a speed that could endanger others could constitute reckless driving.

Based on this definition, any of the following could fall under reckless driving:

  • Tailgating another vehicle
  • Drag racing
  • Running a red light or a stop sign
  • Failing to yield
  • Speeding

Typically, a driver who does just one of these things may only be ticketed for that one violation. However, combining two or more could result in a
reckless driving charge.

When it comes to speeding, there is no defined miles-per-hour over the limit that would shift a situation from a ticket to a reckless driving charge. Therefore, it may be up to a law enforcement officer’s discretion.


Reckless driving is not a simple traffic violation; it is considered a criminal charge as a class 2 misdemeanor. A conviction of this could mean a fine of up to $1,000 as well as spending up to 60 days in jail. From an administrative point of view, a reckless driving conviction could also result in four points being added to the driver’s license, which, in turn, could increase the driver’s insurance premiums. In North Carolina, 12 points on a license over the course of a three-year period leads to a
license suspension.

It is also important to point out that if the reckless driving incident results in an accident that includes property damage, serious bodily injury or death, the consequences may be even more severe.

These consequences are enough to demonstrate the need for a proper defense against a reckless driving charge. It may be possible to get the charge reduced or even dismiss. People who have questions about this topic should speak with a criminal defense attorney in North Carolina.


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