North Carolina Reckless Driving

A reckless driving charge in North Carolina carries up to $1,000 in fines, 4 demerit points, potential jail time, and in some cases, license suspension.
Written by Pat Roache
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
In North Carolina, reckless driving is operating any vehicle carelessly, with deliberate disregard for others, or in a way that could be deemed dangerous. The maximum penalty for reckless driving is $1,000 in fines, four demerit points, jail time, and a suspended license.
Every state has legislation to regulate reckless (aka careless) driving. What’s considered reckless varies by state, as do the punishments and classifications of charges. The law in North Carolina has a rather broad definition of reckless driving, but the legal penalties are clear—offenders will face fines and incur points on their license and may be subjected to loss of driving privileges or time behind bars.
No matter the specifics, a reckless driving charge in North Carolina can get expensive quickly. In this article,
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How does North Carolina define reckless driving?

The rules of the road in North Carolina define reckless driving (General Statute 20-140) as either, or a combination of, the following:
  • Driving “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others”
  • Driving “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property”
This legal definition is pretty vague, so a lot is left up to the discretion of law enforcement when it comes to charges. Whether or not a particular manner of driving constitutes reckless driving may boil down to the circumstances.
The following factors are considered when determining reckless driving charges:
  • Traffic and the driver’s effect on surrounding vehicles
  • Road and weather conditions
  • Whether the driver was paying attention (including cellular device usage)
  • The driver’s speed
  • Influence from alcohol and drugs
A person can be convicted of reckless driving for operating any vehicle in a way that could be determined dangerous. Speeding above 80 mph alone is enough to constitute reckless driving in the state of North Carolina.
Key Takeaway Reckless driving is operating a vehicle in a way that is considered careless, that is dangerous in the eyes of an officer, or that exceeds speeds of 80 mph.

What are the penalties for reckless driving in North Carolina?

Reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina and carries up to $1,000 in fines, four demerit points, and potential jail time. 
First offenders could face up to 30 days in jail when convicted of reckless driving. If the offender has any prior criminal convictions, they face up to 60 days in jail.
A reckless driving charge can result in the suspension of a driver’s license under the following circumstances:
  • The driver was going faster than 55 mph while driving more than 15 mph above the speed limit
  • The driver was going faster than 80 mph, regardless of the speed limit
  • The driver has a previous offense within the past year
If a driver’s license is suspended, they’ll have to wait until the suspension period is over—at least 60 days for reckless driving—and reapply for a license with the North Carolina DMV. In most cases, a driver will have to show
proof of insurance
get a supended license reinstated
Key Takeaway The North Carolina penalty for reckless driving is a maximum of $1,000 in fines and four demerit points. Jail time and license suspension depend on the circumstances and are up to a judge.

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

Demerit points from a reckless driving charge will expire after three years, but the state offers driver improvement clinics to lower the number of points on your record within that time.
The North Carolina
driver's license point
system follows a 12-point scale standard with an alternate eight-point scale for drivers who have had their licenses suspended and reinstated. Drivers can request to attend a driver improvement clinic when they accumulate seven points on the 12-point scale or four points on the eight-point scale.
The driver improvement clinic will cost $110 after fees—$40 for a hearing to request the clinic and $70 to participate. A clinic can only be taken once every five years and will remove three points from your driving record upon successful completion.
When you do the math, you’ll see that this option won’t completely clean your record in less than three years. Still, the reduced points could go a long way for license reinstatement, driving record security, and any changes to your insurance premium.
Key Takeaway Driver improvement clinics can’t be used to wipe your driving record clean, but they can be used to reduce three points from your record once every five years.

Will reckless driving make my insurance go up? 

When it comes to breaking the rules of the road, reckless driving has a monumental effect on your insurance rates. Drivers with a reckless driving citation in North Carolina see an average 84% increase to their insurance premium—that’s $796 a year based on the state’s annual average.
With substantial fines, legal fees, and long-term effects on your insurance rates, a reckless driving charge could be devastating for your wallet. Avoid the expenses by avoiding reckless driving altogether. Pay attention to speed limits, respect your fellow drivers, and always employ safe driving practices.

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A reckless driving charge is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. However, the charges can count as a predicate offense to a felony if the reckless driving contributed to severe bodily injury or death. In these cases, the felony indictment is for “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury.”
Reckless driving is a criminal act and may equate to jail time. First-time offenders face a maximum penalty of 30 days. Repeat offenders could face up to 60 days. A jail sentence is up to the discretion of a judge.
You may be able to reduce the charges from a reckless driving ticket in court with help from a lawyer. The following options could be pursued when appealing for reduced charges in front of a judge:
Appeal to reduce the charges to improper equipment, unsafe movement, or speeding charges
Ask for a plea bargain
Request a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC)
Pursue driving school in exchange for reduced charges
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