Washington State Reckless Driving Laws

Seattle Personal Injury Attorney
Most serious or fatal auto accidents are the result of some form of negligent or reckless driving. Being a Kent injury lawyer and Auburn auto accident attorney it is my goal to inform the public of the different Washington State driving laws, so they may become safer drivers.
With many Washington State driving laws people do not realize how serious the offense is until they have crashed their car or spent the night in jail. Reckless driving, like so many other crimes, is often dismissed as a slap on the hand until someone close to you has to go through it. Here is everything you need to know about a Washington State reckless driving charge.


Washington State Reckless Driving Laws

According to the law, reckless driving is when a driver operates a vehicle with a willful or unjustifiable disregard for the safety of other people or property. With this definition you can probably see how many different things can be considered reckless driving including:

  • Excessive speeding: this is at the discretion of the officer whether or not to issue a speeding ticket or a reckless driving charge. Typically, you have to be driving in excess of 20 miles over the posted speed limit to constitute reckless driving, but lower speeds may be considered reckless if you are driving in a residential area or under the influence of any type of drug or alcohol.
  • Embracing another person: embracing or holding another person while driving can be considered reckless driving as it can affect your ability to steer, shift, affect your vision or slow your reaction times.
  • Racing: racing another vehicle will typically be cited as reckless driving and is illegal on Washington state roads and highways.


The penalties for reckless driving are pretty steep and probably are harsher than you would think. Reckless driving is considered a gross misdemeanor which is considered a crime, not just a traffic infraction and will go on your permanent record. With a gross misdemeanor you will be fined up to $5,000 and can be sentenced to jail time (no longer than 1 year jail sentence). A reckless driving charge is also accompanied by at least a 30 day suspension of your license which you will not be able to claim hardship or be eligible for a temporary restricted license. After the license suspension you will be required to get SR-22 high risk auto insurance on your vehicle, which is quite a bit more expensive than a normal insurance policy and often requires you to change your insurance provider.

Reckless driving is considered a “major” crime and if you are convicted of three or more such crimes in a five year period your license will be suspended for 7 years.