Manhattan Reckless Driving Accidents

The hustle and bustle of Manhattan, including heavy traffic, and substantial reliance on taxis, rideshare companies, and the subway, makes reckless driving less of a problem than it is in some of New York City’s other boroughs. Yet, plenty of drivers in Manhattan still engage in dangerous behaviors and make poor choices behind the wheel, some of which lead to treacherous crashes and severe injuries.

New York law describes reckless driving as “operating a vehicle or motorcycle in a manner contrary to normal use of a public road or in a manner that puts other users in danger of bodily harm or death.” Reckless drivers in Manhattan face penalties if convicted; reckless driving is a misdemeanor criminal offense.

The NYPD spends their day responding to all types of issues, but those responsible for policing traffic certainly issue thousands of citations every day, including reckless driving tickets. Unfortunately for the careless drivers who receive the tickets, reckless driving citations usually come with other tickets such as speeding, inattentive driving, and more. This is especially true when reckless driving leads to an accident that results in severe bodily harm or death.

If you suffered injuries in a Manhattan reckless driving accident, consult an experienced accident attorney who can advise you on the best course of action to recover damages for losses related to your injuries. Until you meet with a lawyer, or if you are simply seeking information, this guide takes a closer look at reckless driving accidents in Manhattan, including common driving behaviors that constitute reckless driving, situations that lead to reckless driving, penalties reckless drivers face here, and the compensation you might receive from a reckless driving accident claim.

Common Driving Behaviors That Constitute Reckless Driving

NYPD officers have discretion whether to issue a reckless driving citation in specific situations because the state’s law does not specifically define the actions that fall under the umbrella of reckless driving. For example, Manhattan drivers can receive a speeding ticket for going over the posted speed limit. If the driver speeds excessively or causes an accident, especially one that causes bodily harm, an NYPD officer might choose to issue a reckless driving ticket in conjunction with or in addition to a speeding citation.

Although New York’s reckless driving law does not clearly outline reckless driving behaviors, some situations commonly result in a reckless driving citation and can also lead to a Manhattan reckless driving accident.

They include:

If a driver violates any rules of the road, and their violation leads to property damage or bodily harm, the police may issue a reckless driving citation.

Factors Often Associated With Reckless Driving and Reckless Driving Accidents

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies different traffic accidents and their causes to guide them in advising lawmakers about the best policies and laws to keep the roads safe for those who use them. They have devoted time and money to study reckless driving because it leads to dangerous and deadly traffic accidents. Understanding what motivates people to make poor choices behind the wheel provides insight into potential ways to solve the problem.

The NHTSA refers to reckless driving as aggressive driving and defines it similarly to New York law. According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving occurs when a driver operates a motor vehicle and endangers the property and lives of others on the road. The NHTSA has not pinned down every cause of reckless driving, but has learned about four common factors associated with reckless driving citations in data they receive from police officers throughout the country, including the NYPD. One or more of the following factors often motivate reckless driving:

Traffic Congestion

Heavy traffic causes major delays for many drivers in Manhattan. Those who do not have the patience to deal with stop-and-go traffic and the standstills that sometimes happen in Manhattan might choose to drive recklessly to make up for lost time. Accidents, funerals, road construction, and special events in the city can lead to an abundance of vehicle and pedestrian traffic that slows drivers down. Drivers might try to weave in and out of traffic, follow other vehicles too closely, or travel well over the speed limit if they have the chance.

Rushed to Get Somewhere

Those who live and work in Manhattan suffer from the same demanding schedules that many people have. Whether as a result of work, personal appointments, or child-related obligations, many find themselves rushing to and from meetings and other obligations. To get there on time, some choose to drive recklessly.

Yet, when they cause an accident, they lose even more time if they suffer injuries and need to wait for the police to arrive to give a statement. Parents find themselves in a hurry transporting their kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. Employees rush to run errands on their lunch breaks and get to work on time. Others rush because they have classes or must attend an event.

Being in a hurry leads to reckless driving and potential accidents because Manhattan drivers focus on how late they might be instead of driving safely to their destination.


Psychological factors related to driving a motor vehicle also sometimes motivate drivers to operate their vehicles aggressively. According to the NHTSA, drivers feel anonymous and detached from others when driving in the safety of their own vehicles. They engage in reckless behavior because they do not care what others on the road think. They do not personally know the other drivers and do not worry about seeing them in the future.

Social pressures stop us from acting in certain ways when we are in a group; driving in a vehicle takes away the need to adhere to social norms because driving detaches us from society. Not all drivers engage in reckless driving when they feel anonymous, but it can motivate some to drive poorly, especially when they feel rushed.

Pathological Behavior

Fortunately, reckless driving doesn’t occur as often as other minor moving violations, but those who drive recklessly typically do it often. The NHTSA makes room for the fact that someone might have a bad day and make some bad choices behind the wheel, but the vast majority of reckless drivers repeatedly engage in dangerous driving behaviors. These drivers often have underlying emotional struggles or mental health issues that push them to drive aggressively, sometimes leading to dangerous traffic accidents.

Ultimately, the repeated behavior creates habitual reckless drivers with a pathological problem stemming from deep personal issues. Those who exhibit habitual reckless driving, heavy traffic, being in a rush, and feeling anonymous make driving recklessly far more likely.

Penalties for Reckless Driving in Manhattan

Sometimes reckless drivers escape penalties for their behavior when they do not cause a traffic accident. However, those that cause an accident that leads to property damage and bodily harm typically face a reckless driving citation from the NYPD.

In New York, a reckless driving conviction is a misdemeanor that remains on someone’s criminal record. Specific fines and other penalties vary based on a person’s driving and criminal history.

Manhattan Reckless Driving Fines and Fees

Those convicted the first time for reckless driving face a fine of up to $300. Fines increase for each offense. If a driver receives a second reckless driving citation within 18 months of the third, they face a fine of up to $525. Third offenses carry a maximum fine of $1,125. Those convicted of reckless driving must also pay additional fees and surcharges. This can add hundreds of dollars to the citation depending on the specific circumstances and how often the driver was convicted of reckless driving.

Manhattan Reckless Driving Jail Time

Moving violations, aside from DUI, rarely land drivers in jail. However, reckless drivers face jail time because of the seriousness of their actions. Depending on the circumstances, a convicted reckless driver could face up to six months in jail. First-time offenders face up to 30 days in jail, second offenses carry up to 90 days in jail, and a judge can order habitual offenders that have been convicted of reckless driving to spend up to 180 days in jail.

Points Against a New York Drivers’ License

New York, like other states, has a points system attached to their drivers’ licenses. Each moving violation has a point value attached, and drivers who get 11 points within 18 months face other penalties. Depending on the number of points and the specific violations, the state might suspend or revoke someone’s license. A reckless driving conviction in New York is a five-point penalty against a driver’s license.

Seeking Compensation for Damages After a Manhattan Reckless Driving Accident

If a reckless driver caused an accident that led to your injuries, fines and jail time is only one aspect of justice. New York law allows you to seek compensation for losses related to the accident and your injuries. First, you must exhaust any personal injury protection (PIP) coverage you have. New York drivers with registered vehicles must carry a minimum of $50,000 in PIP coverage under the state’s no-fault insurance laws. PIP insurance covers necessary medical expenses, a portion of lost wages, and some extra costs related to accident injuries.

Once you meet or exceed your PIP policy limits, you can file a claim with the reckless driver’s insurance carrier. If you suffered injuries from a reckless driver while on a motorcycle, PIP coverage does not apply. Compensation for damages typically includes a mixture of economic and non-economic losses related to your Manhattan reckless driving accident injuries. The most common damages include:

Medical Treatment Costs

It’s unlikely your PIP coverage will pay for all medical expenses if you suffered severe injuries, so your attorney can help you seek additional damages beyond your PIP. Medical expenses include ambulance service to the nearest hospital in Manhattan, emergency room treatment, diagnostic imaging, surgery, doctor visits, rehabilitation, and travel expenses related to medical treatment. In situations where an accident victim suffers a permanent injury, he or she sometimes receives compensation for future medical expenses, including additional treatment, surgeries, and/or costs of in-home or long-term nursing care.

Lost Wages

PIP coverage only pays up to $2,000 per month in benefits for lost income from missing work due to an accident. This leads to a significant income gap for many households, so those who suffer injuries in a Manhattan reckless driving accident typically seek additional compensation to make up for their lost income. When a Manhattan reckless driving accident leads to catastrophic injuries, accident victims cannot return to work or work in the future. In these cases, someone might receive additional compensation for future lost wages. The amount varies based on someone’s age, career, and previous income.

Pain and Suffering

Traffic accidents are traumatic events that lead to physical and emotional trauma for accident victims. The nature of a reckless driving accident often means serious injuries and potential mental anguish from dealing with those injuries. PIP insurance does not provide benefits for pain and suffering, so those who sustain severe injuries need to take additional action to ensure they get compensation for the way a reckless driving accident has impacted their lives.

Personal injury attorney Andrew Finkelstein managing partner of Jacoby and Meyers LLP

Car Accident Attorney, Andrew G. Finkelstein

Other Non-economic Damages

Non-economic damages for Manhattan reckless driving claims vary greatly among cases. If an accident victim experiences damage to his or her marital relationship due to injuries, for example, he or she might receive compensation for loss of consortium. Other non-economic damages include compensation for diminished quality of life, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement. An experienced Manhattan reckless driving accident lawyer can review your case and advise you on which non-economic damages might apply.