Aggressive Driving vs. Careless Driving | Scott Goodwin Law

Aggressive Driving vs. Careless Driving

by / Wednesday, 31 May 2023 / Published in Michigan Law, Motor Vehicle Accidents
A driver's hand on a car's steering wheel.

Driving can very often be a stressful and difficult situation. People might have to deal with slow traffic and get anxious about running late. People might be upset about something else going on in their lives. A distracted driver might not stop like they’re supposed to. And even if you’re not the one driving aggressively behind the wheel, you still have to watch out for other drivers who might be acting aggressively or carelessly. 

The terms “aggressive driving” and “careless driving” might be used interchangeably, but there is actually a difference between the two.

What is Aggressive Driving? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as, “a combination of moving traffic offenses to endanger other persons or property.” Some common examples of aggressive driving include: 

  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Tailgating
  • Ignoring stop signs, red lights, and other traffic signals
  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Improperly passing on the right
  • Blocking others from merging

Road rage can be a combination of aggressive driving behaviors with other actions like excessively honking the horn, giving obscene hand gestures, yelling threats, flashing high beams, or pulling out a weapon.

How is Aggressive Driving Different from Careless Driving?

Both road rage/aggressive driving and careless driving are very dangerous and can easily cause serious car crashes. However, as far as Michigan law goes, there is a distinction between aggressive/road rage behaviors and careless driving and that distinction comes down to intent. 

The part of the Michigan Vehicle Code which applies to careless driving behaviors states that these are actions done without “wantonness or recklessness.” Because of this, most of the bad driving behaviors you might encounter on the road likely fall into the category of careless driving. For example, if a car crash happens at an intersection because the driver of one car was adjusting their radio and didn’t see a stop sign, that would be considered careless, but not aggressive. On the other hand, road rage/aggressive driving is done with a more deliberate intent.

Michigan Aggressive Driving & Careless Driving Laws

The state of Michigan doesn’t have a law that specifically uses the phrase “road rage.” However, there are parts of the Michigan Vehicle Code which apply to driving in ways that show an intentional disregard for the safety of others. Section 257.626 of the Michigan Vehicle Code defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle in a place open to the general public with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” (This section is worded to not just apply to cars and trucks being driven on public roadways and parking lots. It also includes vehicles used on streams, ponds, and frozen lakes.) These types of violations are considered a misdemeanor and are punishable by fines or prison time. However, if reckless driving impairs a person’s bodily function or causes death, it becomes a felony punishable with steeper fines and more jail time. 

Careless driving is covered by Section 257.626b of the Michigan Vehicle Code This section states:

“A person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public including an area designated for the parking of vehicles in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness, is responsible for a civil infraction.”

Contact a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to contact a car accident lawyer for help. At Scott Goodwin Law, we’re experienced in handling Michigan no-fault cases and helping accident victims get the justice they deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Image: Why Kei / Unsplash