Montana Reckless Driving

Reckless driving in Montana carries a possible fine of $10,000, jail time up to one year, and five points on your driving record.
Written by Maxine Boyko
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
A reckless driving charge in Montana carries a penalty of up to $10,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and five points on your driving record. Your license could also be suspended for up to one year. 
Reckless driving is an umbrella term used to describe any number of dangerous behaviors that can occur on the road. Getting a reckless driving ticket can result in serious penalties ranging from hefty fines to jail time—and can even cause long-lasting harm to your driving record. 
If you want to understand Montana’s reckless driving laws and how they apply to you,
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How does Montana define reckless driving?

According to Montana Law, there are two distinctions for dangerous driving behavior—reckless driving and careless driving

Reckless driving

Reckless driving is defined as operating “any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Put simply, reckless driving convictions require proof that a person was purposely or knowingly driving dangerously
While a reckless driving charge requires proof that the driver knowingly did something risky while driving, Montana law also identifies specific instances of reckless driving. Law enforcement can charge you with reckless driving for: 
  • Fleeing from law enforcement in your vehicle
  • Unlawfully passing a school bus that is displaying a flashing red signal
  • Endangerment of highway workers
The easiest way to understand reckless driving is to look at it as a crime of interpretation. A law enforcement officer ultimately has the authority and responsibility to quickly determine whether a moving violation constitutes reckless driving.  
MORE: How to get car insurance with a bad driving record

Careless driving

Careless driving is defined as operating a vehicle in a way that “does not unduly or unreasonably endanger the life, limb, property, or other rights of a person entitled to the use of the highway.” In other words, a driver can be convicted of careless driving without realizing their driving actions were dangerous. 
Failure to drive “in a careful and prudent manner” is generally considered driving carelessly. More specifically, you could be charged with driving carelessly for:   
  • Failure to use turn signals
  • Running a stop sign, red light, or railroad crossing
  • Tailgating
  • Failure to yield
  • Speeding on hills or winding and narrow roads
  • Leaving the scene of an accident or failing to report an accident
  • Driving with malfunctioning brakes
  • Driving with a load too heavy or large for the vehicle
An officer may stop and ticket you for neglecting to drive safely, so it is very important to be aware of your surroundings and the impact of your presence on the road.
Key takeaway The important distinction between reckless and careless driving is the driver’s intent and level of culpability. All reckless and careless driving is illegal and can carry serious penalties. 
MORE: Should I report a car accident to my insurance company?
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What are the penalties for reckless driving in Montana?

Reckless driving penalties

Reckless driving in Montana is typically classified as a misdemeanor and comes with penalties in the form of
driver's license points
, fines, and imprisonment.
Common penalties for reckless driving are: 
  • Fines: $25 to $300 for the first offense. $50 to $500 for the second and subsequent offenses
  • Imprisonment: Up to 90 days for the first offense, 10 days to 6 months for the second offense
  • Points: 5
A third offense within one year will also result in a one-year license suspension. 
Under certain unfortunate circumstances, reckless driving that results in the death or serious bodily injury carries the following penalties:  
  • Fines: Up to $10,000
  • Imprisonment: Up to 1 year
  • Points: 12, if negligent driving results in homicide

Careless driving penalties

Careless driving also carries serious penalties, which are as follows:
  • First offense: $10 to $100
  • Second offense: $25 to $200
  • Third and subsequent offense(s): $50 to $100
  • Points: 2
If careless driving results in another person’s death or injury, the offender can be fined up to $5,000 and/or face up to six months in prison.
Key Takeaway Both reckless and careless driving in Montana are serious crimes and can result in severe penalties. 

How can I remove a reckless driving charge from my record? 

Unfortunately, all tickets issued in Montana go on your permanent record and cannot be removed. From year to year and from state to state, your driving record stays with you.
Unlike in other states, completing a defensive driving course in Montana cannot remove points from your record. 
The Montana MVD removes points from a ticket three years after the conviction date. During this time, these points will count toward license suspension—so if you still have driving privileges, we recommend being extra careful!

Will a reckless driving violation make my insurance go up? 

Being charged with a reckless driving violation is a guaranteed way to raise your insurance premium. In Montana, your insurance can increase by 42% after a reckless driving charge. 
The best way to avoid insurance surcharges is by consistently practicing safe driving habits. If you want to be extra safe, take a defensive driving course, avoid driving in conditions that could increase your chances of getting into accidents, and consider adding
accident forgiveness
to your insurance. 

How to find affordable car insurance in Montana

Your insurance rates probably won’t change immediately after a reckless driving charge and will likely remain unchanged until it’s time to renew your policy. Once renewal time comes around, it’s your time to shop for new, better, cheaper rates. 
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brought my insurance deductible down from $2.5k to $1k without me having to switch companies. I even had a ticket on my record. If it can help me, Jerry will definitely help you save money.” —Maxwell N.
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Yes, you can go to jail for reckless driving in Montana. You can go to jail for up to one year if convicted of a reckless driving charge. If you get a careless driving charge, you could serve up to 6 months in prison.
The minimum penalty for reckless driving in Montana is $25 to $300 in fines. The minimum careless driving penalty is $10 to $100 in fines.
In Montana, reckless driving and aggressive driving could seem slightly different but will result in the same charges. No matter how it looks, reckless driving and aggressive driving both endanger the lives of other people and property.
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