There is no doubt that cars — and all types of vehicles, for that matter — as well as the act of driving, are intimately connected to our sense of self; our identity, beliefs, values, aspirations and, ultimately, our sense of “interconnectedness”. In the US, automobiles and driving have always been points of reference for the American Dream; playing their part in the right for freedom, self-realization, individualism, and the opportunity for prosperity and progress. But, what happens when drivers fail to address important factors, such as demeanor, focus and even common sense, resulting in careless or reckless driving?

More often than not, unfortunately, road traffic accidents happen. And if you, by any chance, are a fleet manager, you ought to know whether your drivers are abiding by the rules of the road, or not. Otherwise, your business may, unbeknownst to you, be at great risk. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94% of serious crashes are due to human error; in other words, unsafe driving. And when examining unsafe driving in the context of road rules, the lines between ‘careless’ and ‘reckless’ are often blurred. So let’s help set the record straight on how the two compare and contrast, and what you can do to avoid both.

Careless driving vs reckless driving

At a first glance, both careless and reckless driving seem like they are cut from the same cloth. To a certain extent, they are. That is, since they both involve inappropriate behavior. And that can lead to serious accidents, costly fines, demerit points on the driver’s license, and license suspension.

However, in the eyes of the law, the two demeanors have some key distinctions that are important for every driver to understand. Careless driving is a civil traffic violation; meaning it can carry a hefty fine and points on the license; whereas, reckless driving is a criminal offense that, in addition to fines and points, it may carry a jail sentence, as well.

And why is reckless driving considered a criminal offense, in contrast to careless driving? Because it involves the conscious or deliberate disregard for the safety of people or property, while careless driving is, in most cases, unintentional.

Careless driving: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

As already mentioned, careless driving is a civil traffic violation; and is charged when people behind the wheel heedlessly ignore the road rules. Careless driving encompasses a plethora of behaviors, like:

  • Not paying attention to the road
  • Speeding
  • Ignoring traffic lights and/or road signs
  • Veering into the wrong lane
  • Sudden braking
  • Dangerous overtaking
  • Texting and driving (this is considered a minor offense unless, it causes an accident)

However, careless driving is an umbrella term; the charges depend on what rules were broken. And, of course, on the driver’s intentions, as deemed by the traffic magistrate. Although a careless driving charge is not a criminal offense — due to the driver’s lack of criminal intent — it can prove to be costly. If the driver works at a business that uses fleet vehicles, and this kind of negligent behavior happens during their shift, the fines and penalties charged burden both the driver and the business.

Reckless driving: Hold your horses, reckless forces!

The term reckless driving is very specific to the law of the United States. This kind of conduct can put lives in danger, thus most states have strict laws for it. There is an array of specific violations and behaviors that can be deemed reckless, and some of them include:

  • Exceeding speed limits
  • Ignoring traffic lights and signs
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol/drugs
  • Randomly changing lanes
  • Racing other vehicles
  • Aggressive driving
  • Tailgating
  • Passing unsafely and illegally
  • Putting pedestrians’ and/or other drivers’ lives in danger
  • Evading law enforcement

Reckless driving is serious. In addition to demerit points on the driver’s license, costly fines and high insurance premiums, reckless driving may also lead to revocation of license; and, even jail sentence (in case of serious injuries or death). And, if we are talking about a fleet management company or group, manned with reckless drivers, we may well have a case of negligent entrustment in our hands.

But, worry not! There are solutions to prevent irresponsible driving behaviors. These can be easily applied to protect your business from the grave perils such conduct entails. 

Solutions and tips for safe driving practices

To prevent unsafe driving practices by fleet employees, you need a good fleet management system that allows seamless supervision, instant communication; and, of course, transparency at all levels.  In other words, monitoring driver behavior is key to avoid careless and reckless driving on their part. 

Fleet management software, like Veturilo, provides valuable, real-time insight into how your drivers behave on the road. That is, among other important information, like vehicle status and diagnostics data. Such a fleet management platform instantly notifies you of behaviors that indicate careless or reckless driving. For instance: 

  • high RPM
  • fast acceleration
  • hard braking
  • sharp turns

With a vehicle monitoring system, you can also create automated alerts. That is, if safe driving rules are broken or on the brink of being broken. The data provided by the fleet monitoring system will help you get a benchmark of the fleet’s overall performance; as well as identify which shady behaviors your drivers tend to display. This means that you can set KPIs on safe driving; and use them to educate your fleet drivers, offer incentives for safe driving habits, correct misdemeanor, monitor progress. And, if need be, penalize dangerous behaviors.

Train your drivers to the noble art of defensive driving

It goes without saying that fleet managers have a duty to develop a culture of safe driving among their fleet drivers. Hence, an ongoing training program should be on their agenda; and getting down to the brass tacks of defensive driving is a great starting point.

Defensive driving can save you time, money and, more importantly, lives. A defensive driver does not only concentrate on his/her actions but anticipates the possible (re-)actions of other drivers.

Some very important rules you’ll want to expound on your staff training are:

  • Be aware of the surroundings
  • Follow traffic laws
  • Drive within the speed limit
  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Never drink (alcohol) and drive
  • Avoid distractions (e.g. mobile phone)
  • Try to keep emotions in check (Traffic Psychology may help you instill a desired behavioral model)
  • Maintain a safe distance with other vehicles
  • Keep the blind spots in mind
  • Adapt car and driving to road and weather conditions, and last but not least:
  • Regulate food and coffee intake

A thought “for the road”

Every driver, professional or not, has the responsibility to be mindful and behave in a civilized manner, while driving. Even when other drivers, or pedestrians, try to stir things up. The moment you are tempted to engage in discourteous behavior behind the wheel, take a deep breath, and consider the consequences. Both careless driving and reckless driving can bring upon detrimental effects that may be irreversible. 

Always remember that, at the end of the day, what matters most is reaching your destination safely.

Careless and reckless driving and how to avoid them was last modified: October 6th, 2020 by Eleni Konstantinidou