There is a Difference between Careless Driving and Reckless Driving.
Careless Driving and Reckless Driving have distinction and significantly different consequences faced by a driver charged with one or both of the offenses. If you are convicted of Reckless Driving you are subject to imprisonment for up to 60 days (first offense), a mandatory assessment of five (5) motor vehicle points, is far more likely to result in a license suspension, and faces fines between $50.00 and $200.00. If you are convicted of Careless Driving, on the other and, is subject to the assessment of only two (2) motor vehicle points, fines between $50.00 and $200.00, and the possibility of imprisonment of up to only fifteen (15) days. However, the actual instances of imprisonment for careless driving are extremely rare.
Reckless Driving = Wanton Disregard
In order to be guilty of reckless driving, a driver must exhibit a willful, wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others. Therefore, the driver must act with some degree of knowledge of the risk he or she is creating for others and understand that the risk created is significant.
Careless Driving = Careless and Without Due Caution and Circumspection
In order to be guilty of careless driving, a driver must act without the type of caution necessary to safely operate a car under the circumstances presented. A minor accident due to inattention would be sufficient to constitute careless driving.
An Example Highlighting the Differences between Careless Driving and Reckless Driving.
A driver who is approaching a busy intersection, is momentarily distracted, fails to notice the light is red, and enters the intersection against the red light, thereby causing an accident, would be guilty of careless driving. This is true even though the driver didn’t intend to enter against the red. The driver, by allowing him or her self to be distracted, operated without due caution and circumspection.
A driver approaching a busy intersection and knows the light is red, but believes, if he or she goes fast enough, can fly through the intersection without hitting anyone, and then intentionally attempts to make his or her way by speeding through the intersection, would be guilty of reckless driving in that they operated the car with a willful, wanton disregard for the rights and safety of others.
Clearly, reckless driving is the far more serious offense and requires a far more specific, wanton act of disregard for the rights and safety of others. Careless driving, however, requires no more than than the simple negligence of a momentary distraction. You can make educated decisions about your defense by knowing the differences between Careless Driving and Reckless Driving.