Visiting Tennessee? Understand our reckless driving law

In many states, the offense of reckless driving is limited to a few specific activities. In Tennessee, there are some specific activities that constitute reckless driving, but the overall definition is driving any vehicle "in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property."

That means that whether you are charged with this rather serious offense depends in large part on a police officer's opinion about what you did.

Don't disregard a reckless driving charge -- it could lead to jail time

Most traffic violations are mere infractions. They expose you to a fine and put points on your license. In Tennessee and in most other states, however, reckless driving is a criminal misdemeanor. In Tennessee specifically, reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor.

A Class B misdemeanor in Tennessee is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. If you're convicted of reckless driving, you will be assessed an additional $50 fine, as well. In some circumstances, you could also be assessed restitution for any rescue efforts required.

A reckless driving conviction adds six points to your driving record. Remember: 12 points in any year can lead to a 6- to 12-month license suspension. In the case of reckless driving, however, two convictions within a year will result in a 12-month driver's license suspension.

Additionally, reckless driving is an offense listed in the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act. You could face a multiplied sentence upon your third or subsequent conviction for any of the listed offenses.

Three types of reckless driving

In Tennessee, three types of driving are defined as reckless:

  • Driving any vehicle "in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property"
  • Driving a motorcycle with the front tire raised off the ground (doing a wheelie), except by adults riding in parades going at no more than 30 mph
  • Ignoring a visible, adequate flood warning sign or barricade and driving onto a road that is actually flooded (does not apply to emergency vehicles or drivers facing bona fide emergencies)

Since the first type is in the eye of the police beholder, you should avoid risky driving scenarios such as:

  • Speeding more than a few miles over the limit
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Drag racing
  • Passing on a two-lane highway when your visibility to oncoming traffic is limited
  • Attempting to elude police
  • Any driving behavior that an observer would view as knowingly or recklessly putting other lives or property in danger

If you are arrested for reckless driving in Tennessee, you can't afford to just plead guilty. Get an experienced local attorney to fight for your rights.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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Fifth Third Center, Suite 2260
Nashville, TN 37219

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Phone: 615-200-9559
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