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Differences between Agressive and Reckless Driving

Serge Semirog

These two offenses may seem to be identical, however, after short review of the the North Carolina General Statutes, the difference becomes move evident.  Let's take a look at the definitions according to North Carolina law:

§ 20-141.6.  Aggressive Driving.
Any person who operates a motor vehicle on a street, highway, or public roadway is guilty of aggressive driving if the person:
(1) Violates either G.S. 20-141 or G.S. 20-141.1, and
(2) Drives carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others.

This particular law goes over what is aggressive driving.  G.S. 20-141 and G.S. 20-141.1, which are referenced in the definition of Aggressive Driving, refer to Speed restrictions and Speed limits in school zones.  

The statutes goes on to list certain violations that can be classified as aggressive driving including:

  • running a traffic signal,
  • illegal passing,
  • failing to yield right of way, and
  • following too closely.  

The law concludes by defining the offense as a class 1 misdemeanor and stating that "The offense of reckless driving under G.S. 20-140 is a lesser-included offense of [aggressive driving]."  

Let's consider what constitutes as "reckless" driving now:


§ 20-140.  Reckless driving.

Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful and wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others shall be guilty of reckless driving.

Any person who drives...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 shall be guilty of reckless driving.

Further in the statute it says that Reckless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor.  The wording of both laws seem to be eerily similar ("wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others").  The primary difference is that 20-140 Reckless Driving does not go into detail of how to prove that someone violated the law.  The statute is intentionally vague so as to encompass all of the unwise actions people take on the road. 

In the end, Aggressive Driving is Reckless Driving, but Reckless Driving is not Aggressive Driving. 

Aggressive Driving is a class 1 misdemeanor (akin to Selling Alcohol to Minors or Blackmail) while Reckless Driving is a class 2 misdemeanor (akin to Simple Assault or Texting While Driving).  

By Serge SemirogGoogle +