Washington Reckless Driving

Reckless driving in Washington carries fines of up to $5000, jail time up to 364 days, and a driver’s license suspension of 30 days.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Reckless driving in Washington comes with fines of up to $5,000 and jail time of up to 364 days. A reckless driving charge will probably result in a license suspension of 30 days, depending on the severity of the infraction.
In addition, a reckless driving charge will be added to your criminal record, affecting everything from your job prospects to your car insurance rates.
Speeding can get you a ticket
—but reckless driving is a more serious charge. Reckless driving covers a variety of infractions—from
running a red light
to racing. Typical penalties include heavy fines, license suspension, a criminal record, and even jail time.
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is here to walk you through reckless driving in Washington so you can avoid this serious charge and the penalties that come along with it. We've also included information on how you can reduce your
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How does Washington define reckless driving?

According to the Revised Code of Washington
, the state of Washington defines reckless driving as “any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
What does this mean? “Willful” indicates that the driver knowingly breaks the law. For example, knowing you should stop at a red light, but choosing to run it anyway. “Wanton disregard” means that the driver acted without considering the harm they could do to others.
Reckless driving is any type of dangerous driving that has the potential to destroy property or cause harm to others.
Some examples of reckless driving include:
  • Extreme speeding
  • Sudden braking
  • Failure to yield
  • Running red lights
  • Erratic driving
  • Racing
  • Tailgating
In Washington, the officer who issues you the ticket decides if you were guilty of reckless driving. Ultimately, the court will determine if your infraction warrants a reckless driving charge.
Key Takeaway Reckless driving is a serious charge that covers any dangerous driving that could cause harm to people or property.

What are the penalties for reckless driving in Washington?

In Washington, reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor. Even though reckless driving is not a felony, it still counts as a criminal charge.
The penalties for reckless driving are:
  •  Up to $5,000 in fines
  •  Up to 364 days in prison
  •  License suspension for 30 days
  •  A gross misdemeanor on your criminal record
Usually, a
license suspension
will only be considered after multiple minor traffic violations. However, a reckless driving charge will result in license suspension, even if it’s your first ticket.

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

As a reckless driving charge is a criminal offense, it’s harder to remove from your record than a mere speeding infraction. You may want to find a lawyer to help you through the process.
The best way to keep a reckless driving charge off your record is to prevent the charge in the first place. A range of
traffic infractions
fall under reckless driving, so there’s more than one way to deal with a reckless driving charge. You can argue to reduce your charges if:
  • You can prove your speedometer was malfunctioning at the time
  • You were unaware of the problems with your vehicle that led to the charge, for example, unresponsive brakes
  • You were speeding because of an emergency
Once you have been convicted of reckless driving, it will be part of your criminal record. It’s possible to vacate the charge if you fulfill the following criteria:
  • No new pending or convicted criminal charges
  • Never had another charge vacated
  • Not currently under a restraining order or have not been under a restraining order in the past five years
  • Three years have passed since you fulfilled the consequences of the charge
  • If the charge was not the first offense, ten years must have passed between the first and subsequent offense
Even if you don’t qualify for vacating the charge, you can still work on your driving record. You can take defensive driving courses to avoid future traffic violations and improve your standing with your insurance company. 
You can also order a driving record report from the DMV to check on your driving status to make sure you keep your infractions low. 
Key Takeaway Vacating a reckless driving charge is complicated, but it’s possible. You may need to hire a lawyer to help you through the process.

Will reckless driving make my insurance go up?

A reckless driving charge has a significant impact on your insurance rates. Insurers in Washington increase rates after a reckless driving charge by around 45%. That’s around $540 more than the average car insurance rate in Washington!
In Washington, you are required to carry
SR-22 insurance
for three years after a reckless driving charge. The rates for this kind of coverage are generally more expensive than your typical insurance rates.

How to find affordable car insurance in Washington

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Jail time is one of the penalties for reckless driving in Washington. A driver can face up to 364 days of jail time for a reckless driving charge. The charge will also appear on your criminal record as a gross misdemeanor.
In Washington, a reckless driving charge is a gross misdemeanor that is added to your criminal record. Depending on what the job is, a reckless driving charge may affect how your application is viewed by an employer.
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