Reckless vs. Careless Driving in New Jersey

Reckless vs. Careless DrivingOur law firm frequently defends traffic offenses in New Jersey involving reckless and careless driving. These offenses can be charged in addition to speeding under Sections 39:4-98 and 39:4-97.2. It is also not uncommon that people charged with speeding, reckless, or careless driving in New Jersey will also have to defend the charge of following too closely under 39:4-89 and sometimes even racing on the highway under 39:4-52. It is important to understand that each and every one of these charges has an element in which the prosecution must meet beyond a reasonable doubt in New Jersey’s Municipal Court for the County in which it was committed. Reckless driving (39:4-96) which carries 5 points is committed when a person drives his or her car “heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard” of the rights of safety of others, in the manner that endangers of likely endangers a person or property. Reckless driving subjects a person of up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $200.00. A second offense subjects a person of up to 3 months in jail and up to a $500.00 fine.

Careless driving is committed when the person drives the vehicle “without due caution and circumspection” or in such a way that it endangers or likely endangers a person or property. Careless driving carries with it 2 points and is obviously a much better alternative to reckless driving.

A speeding ticket in New Jersey can carry with it anywhere from 2 points (1-14 miles over the speed limit) to up to 5 points (30 miles or more over the speed limit) but  a person driving at a high rate of speed is often charged with following too closely under 39:4-89 which carries 5 points. A person is guilty of following too closely when he or she is closer than “reasonable and prudent”. Points are very serious in New Jersey just like Pennsylvania and a person who acquires 12 or more points will have his or her license suspended in the Garden State. Points are only deducted in the following ways:

  • defensive driving program – 2 points – may be used to subtract points once every 5 years;
  • driver improvement program – 3 points – may be used to subtract points once every 2 years;
  • probationary driver program – 3 points; or
  • one year with no violations – 3 points.

Even if you don’t have 12 points on your New Jersey driver’s license, a person who receives 6 or more points within three years will be assessed a surcharge. Surcharges are in addition to any courts or fines or penalties and are billed yearly for 3 years. If you accumulate 6 or more points within 3 years you will receive a $150.00 surcharge plus $25.00 for each additional point over 6 points. For instance, there is a $1,000.00 surcharge for the 1st and 2nd DWI offense.

If you do acquire 12 or more points on your license the length of the suspension depends on the amount of time it took you to accumulate those points. For example, if you acquired 12 or more points within 2 years or less there is a 30 day suspension. If it took you more than 2 years to accumulate 12-14 points it would be less than 30 days. For more information on New Jersey driving offenses I encourage you to visit my free download section continue reading my blog and previous articles on DWI, license suspensions, and illegal drugs in the Garden State.