If you are charged with Reckless Driving, the state must prove that you drove a motor vehicle in a reckless manner evidencing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. This can be shown in a multitude of ways but, generally speaking, not by speed alone. It is important to note that the state is also alleging an awareness of the risk such that you willfully or wantonly disregard the risk. However, even if you did not know of the risk, it can be assumed that you should know based on other factors (driving 110 mph where signs are posted for windy roads). So, you can’t just say “I didn’t know about XYZ risk” as your defense.
Aggravating Factors That Support A Reckless Charge
If you are driving 50 mph in a 25 mph hour zone, your speed alone cannot justify a Reckless Driving charge. However, if you are driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone while weaving in and out of cars and ignoring stops signs, your speed could be used as support for the charge. Essentially, the state needs to show your speed was so egregious under the circumstances (perhaps going 100 mph in a low visibility snow storm) or there were other aggravating factors.
Racing as Reckless
It is important to note that, while speed alone is not sufficient for a Reckless Driving charge, it can be used in support of a Reckless charge based on racing. If you are speeding while engaged in a comparison or contest of relative speed, you are likely deemed “racing” and that can amount to a Reckless Driving charge.
Additionally, if you are arrested for racing, your car will be impounded for 72 hours on the first offense and, beyond the first offense, your car will be seized and forfeited. And, those who are deemed to be “aiding and abetting” the racing can also be criminally charged.
No Need For Speed
Finally, if you are charged with Reckless due to racing, realize that you do not have to actually “speed” to be found guilty of the charge. As you can see from the new January 1, 2024, it is just the comparison of speed or maneuverability of a vehicle that can amount to racing. This occurs “whether or not such speed is in excess of the maximum speed prescribed by law .” Interestingly, you also do not need two or more vehicles to amount to “racing.”
If you have been charged with Reckless Driving, reach out to one of our attorneys for a free consultation. If you delay or ignore the severity of this charge, it can have a dramatic impact on your privilege to drive. 360-792-1000
Relevant case law:
Racing of vehicles on highways—Reckless driving—Exception. (Effective January 1, 2024.)
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to race any motor vehicle or motor vehicles upon any public highway of this state as defined in RCW 46.04.197, or upon any off-street facility as defined in RCW 46.04.367. Any person or persons who willfully compare or contest relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles or who willfully demonstrates, exhibits, or compares speed, maneuverability, or the power of one or more motor vehicles, including “drifting,” shall be guilty of racing, which shall constitute reckless driving under RCW 46.61.500 subjecting the violator to the penalties provided for under RCW 46.61.500 unless otherwise provided for in this section, whether or not such speed is in excess of the maximum speed prescribed by law: PROVIDED HOWEVER, That any comparison or contest of the accuracy with which motor vehicles may be operated in terms of relative speeds not in excess of the posted maximum speed does not constitute racing. Nothing in this section prohibits a person from being charged under other provisions of the law for other acts, results, incidents, damages, injuries, or deaths that occur as a result of, or in addition to, their participation in racing.
(2) Any person who knowingly aids and abets racing under subsection (1) of this section may be charged and prosecuted as an accomplice in accordance with RCW 46.64.048.
(3) The offenses described in this section may be deemed to have been committed either at the time and location from which the person charged initiated his or her efforts, or at the time and location where the completed traffic infraction or crime occurred regardless of whether the person charged under this section was ever actually present at the time and location of the completed traffic infraction or crime.