Understanding the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Reckless Driving

Aggressive driving is often confused with reckless driving, but these are two distinctly different offenses under Virginia law. Aggressive and reckless driving

What the Law Says

Virginia code § 46.2-868.1 section A reads, "A person is guilty of aggressive driving if (i) the person violates one or more of the following: § 46.2-802 (Drive on right side of highways), § 46.2-804 (Failure to observe lanes marked for traffic), § 46.2-816 (Following too closely), § 46.2-821 (Vehicles before entering certain highways shall stop or yield right-of-way), § 46.2-833.1(Evasion of traffic control devices), § 46.2-838 (Passing when overtaking a vehicle), § 46.2-841 (When overtaking vehicle may pass on right), § 46.2-842 (Driver to give way to overtaking vehicle), § 46.2-842.1 (Driver to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highway), § 46.2-843 (Limitations on overtaking and passing), any provision of Article 8 (§ 46.2-870 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 46.2 (Speed), or § 46.2-888 (Stopping on highways); and (ii) that person is a hazard to another person or commits an offense in clause (i) with the intent to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person."

Section B adds, "Aggressive driving shall be punished as a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, aggressive driving with the intent to injure another person shall be punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties described in this subsection, the court may require successful completion of an aggressive driving program."

How Aggressive Driving Differs From Reckless Driving

Several of the behaviors mentioned under the aggressive driving statute, including speeding and improper passing, could also fall under the category of reckless driving. However, there is one important difference between these two offenses.

Aggressive driving charges are different from reckless driving charges in that you must either be a hazard to others on the road or be committing the behavior with the goal of harassing or intimidating someone. If you're merely distracted, tired, or inattentive and not intentionally causing harm, the behavior should either be charged as reckless driving or as a simple traffic violation.

Protecting Your Rights

Since both aggressive driving and reckless driving are criminal offenses punishable by hefty fines and the possibility of jail time, it would be a mistake to plead guilty and accept the consequences. Protect your rights by hiring an experienced attorney who can help you build a solid defense. To learn more, contact Virginia reckless driving attorney Charles V. Hardenbergh to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.