Texas ‘lenient’ to reckless drivers, ranking says
Reckless driving is not unique to Texas, but according to researchers at WalletHub, Texas is the most lenient state when it comes to punishing speeders and reckless drivers.
The website ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on several criteria, including whether speeding is automatically considered reckless driving, whether the state uses automatic speed cameras, whether there are additional penalties for aggressive driving and what the state’s minimum and maximum penalties are for reckless driving.
Speeding has a pretty straightforward definition, but how does the law define reckless driving? San Marcos Assistant Police Chief Brandon Winkenwerder said that reckless driving involves “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” According to state law, reckless driving is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200, confinement in county jail for no more than 30 days, or both the fine and jail time.
Winkenwerder said that speed can be a factor in reckless driving, but the offense is usually more complicated than that.
“It usually has several driving behaviors like driving too fast for conditions, proximity to other traffic, following too close, unsafe lane change, speeding, failure to maintain marked lane, passing on shoulder, et cetera,” he said.
Although the term “road rage” does not define a specific driving offense, Winkenwerder said, it can be considered reckless driving.
“Road rage can be reckless driving because road rage has the same bad driving behaviors as reckless driving,” he said.
Winkenwerder said there can be a range of motivations for reckless driving, from poor driving habits to emotional states to other criminal activities like trying to outrun the police.
“Trying to outrun the police is a felony,” Winkenwerder said, “so you will never see reckless driving (on a police report) because they are charged with evading in a vehicle.”
He also cautioned against driving while upset because such strong emotions can lead drivers to pay less attention to the road and their driving.
“You have to make sure you are paying attention to what you and others around you are doing so that you do not end up in accidents,” he said. “If you are emotionally upset you are probably more likely to not pay attention and end up being involved in an accident.”
Winkenwerder said people need to remember the potential consequences of driving recklessly.
“The road is not a race track. If you want to see how fast your car can go, go to Alamo City Motorplex (1/4 mile dragstrip) on IH 10 between Seguin and San Antonio,” where people can drag race for a fee, he said. “If you get mad at another motorist take a moment and think rationally before you decide to drive recklessly. Do you want to risk going to jail, court costs and fines?”
Winkenwerder also said that motorists who observe someone driving dangerously can call 911 to report it.
“Be sure you know your location so that the dispatch center can route your call to the correct agency of jurisdiction,” he advised.