Reckless drivers in Queens endanger themselves and others with whom they share city streets. Under New York law, reckless driving occurs whenever a driver operates a motor vehicle outside the normal use of a public street or highway or endangers others while operating a motor vehicle. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by fines, jail time, and other penalties.
If you sustained injuries in a reckless driving accident in Queens, consult with a skilled reckless driving accident injury lawyer right away to learn about your legal rights to compensation.
Below we explore the topic of reckless driving accidents in Queens, including what driver actions constitute reckless driving, the penalties for reckless drivers, and types of compensation you might have the legal right to receive after a reckless driving accident. We also offer tips for preserving the value of your legal claim after a reckless driving accident.
Reckless Driving Includes Many Dangerous Driving Behaviors
New York law does not specifically define the driving behaviors or actions that constitute reckless driving, which gives law enforcement discretion to decide which situations warrant a reckless driving citation.
Common examples of reckless driving in Queens include:
- Speeding or traveling too fast for weather or road conditions;
- Driving into or through prohibited areas, such as police barricades or areas blocked off for road construction;
- Speeding up to beat a red light or otherwise ignoring traffic signals;
- Crossing the centerline into oncoming traffic;
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street;
- Weaving in and out of traffic;
- Illegal passing;
- Joyriding and racing;
- Changing lanes without signaling;
- Making turns from outside lanes;
- Driving while excessively fatigued; and
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As these examples reflect for anyone who lives and works in Queens, and spends any time driving on or walking across its streets, reckless driving happens far-too-often. Police can only stop some of it. The rest of the time, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians face extreme danger whenever a Queens driver engages in reckless behavior behind the wheel.
Motivations for Reckless Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal government agency that studies accidents to help inform policies and legislation to keep the nation’s roads and highways safe. Reckless driving accidents have severe and sometimes deadly consequences, making them a primary area of study for the NHTSA.
The NHTSA’s research has not revealed clear causes for reckless driving, but it has offered insight into common motivations reckless drivers have for their dangerous behavior.
New York City is notorious for its heavy traffic, which plagues all the boroughs, including Queens. Heavy traffic leads to delays that sometimes motivate impatient drivers to speed, weave in and out of traffic, or engage in other dangerous maneuvers to get around the borough or to make up for lost time. Inclement weather, traffic collisions, funeral processions, and road work can make traffic in Queens even worse.
Life is full of duties and demands that keep many Queens residents and workers feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes cause them to run late. Drivers who constantly rush from obligation to obligation feel rushed. This causes some drivers to make dangerous choices behind the wheel and potentially cause a reckless driving accident.
Cab and rideshare drivers, for instance, often rush to complete rides so that they can squeeze as many fares as possible into a single shift. Commuters who drive their own vehicles may rush to get to work. Parents rush to make sure their kids arrive on-time for school, sports practices, and extracurricular activities. Queens workers rush to run errands on their lunch breaks.
Regardless of the obligations that cause them to feel rushed, drivers who are in a hurry tend to act more aggressive and unsafe behind the wheel.
NHTSA research reveals that drivers sometimes choose to drive recklessly because they do not feel pressure to conform to social norms while they are alone in their vehicles. The enclosed confines of a car can give drivers a feeling of anonymity and detachment from others, leading them to feel unaccountable for their reckless driving behavior.
In other words, they assume they won’t see others on the road again, so they feel free to engage in unsafe behaviors to get where they need to be. Anonymity is a common feeling for all drivers, but not all choose to drive recklessly. Feeling anonymous, however, can motivate already stressed or rushed drivers to speed, tailgate, or engage in other dangerous driving behaviors.
Once someone drives recklessly once, it becomes easier to do it again. The NHTSA has found that many reckless drivers are repeat offenders. Habitually driving aggressively may result from pathological issues and underlying mental health struggles. In addition, when habitual offenders experience one of the other motivations listed above, they become far more likely to drive recklessly, leading to dangerous accidents.
Reckless Drivers in Queens Face Fines and Jail Time
Reckless drivers who cause an accident in Queens typically receive a reckless driving citation from the NYPD, especially if someone else suffers severe or fatal injuries. A reckless driving conviction in New York is a criminal misdemeanor that stays on someone’s record. The specific amount of a fine, jail time, and drivers’ license penalties can vary based on whether a driver has previous reckless driving citations or criminal driving history.
Fines and Fees for Reckless Driving in Queens
First-time reckless driving offenders face a fine of up to $300 if convicted. Each subsequent offense carries a larger fine. A second reckless driving conviction in Queens within 18 months of the first offense comes with a maximum fine of $525. Those convicted of reckless driving a third time might have to pay up to $1,125. Reckless driver convictions also come with additional surcharges and fees that sometimes add hundreds of dollars to the cost of conviction, depending on the circumstances.
Jail Time for Queens Reckless Driving Convictions
It’s not common for drivers who violate traffic regulations to serve time in jail unless police catch them drinking and driving. However, reckless driving can result in incarceration, especially if the driver causes property damage, injuries, or fatalities. A first-time conviction for reckless driving in Queens is punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Second-time offenders face up to 90 days of jail time, and those who have been convicted three or more times for reckless driving in Queens face up to six months in jail.
License Penalties for Reckless Drivers in Queens
Licensed drivers in New York receive points against their license each time a court convicts them of a moving violation, which can range from two to eleven points depending upon the nature of the conviction. Reckless drivers receive five points against their New York drivers’ license when convicted. A driver who receives eleven points against their license in 18 months faces license suspension or revocation.
Recouping Losses After a Reckless Driving Accident in Queens
The criminal penalties described above can give a sense of justice to victims of reckless drivers in Queens, but that is often small consolation for victims who have suffered severe physical, emotional, and financial harm. Instead, these victims also need full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses. An experienced Queens reckless driving accident attorney can help.
Victims’ Own Insurance Coverage Can Help…
As a first step, Queens reckless driving accident victims can often turn to their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage, if they have it, to help them pay for medical and disability-related expenses. However, the cost of treating and living with a severe injury can quickly exceed the limits of a typical PIP insurance police. What is more, many potential victims of Queens reckless drivers—especially pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists—do not carry PIP insurance at all.
Other forms of insurance may also cover some expenses inflicted by a Queens reckless driver. A victim’s health insurance, if they have it, may pay for some medical care (after accounting for co-pays and deductibles). Some Queens residents and workers may also carry long-term disability insurance that replaces some of their income and pays other expenses if a reckless driver causes severe injuries. Queens workers who suffer harm at work because of a reckless driver may also have the option of seeking workers’ comp benefits to help pay for their medical care and lost income.
However, a victim’s own insurance coverage rarely covers all expenses and damages caused by a reckless driver in Queens. Instead, victims may also need to resort to legal action to recoup losses they suffered in a reckless driving accident.
…But Full Compensation Often Requires Taking Legal Action.
- Medical expenses. A Queens reckless driving accident can lead to expensive medical treatment beginning with a ride to the nearest emergency department. Traffic accident victims often need a battery of diagnostic scans and tests and sometimes need surgery. Depending on the extent of injuries, victims sometimes need to remain in the hospital for days, weeks, or months. Other medical expenses include follow-up doctor visits, surgical aftercare, and transportation costs to and from the doctor/hospital. Reckless driving accident victims who suffer permanent injuries sometimes also receive compensation for future medical treatment and the cost of care in a long-term care facility.
- Lost wages. If you have PIP insurance, you can collect a portion of your lost wages from missing work. New York PIP coverage pays a maximum of $2,000 per month for lost wages up to the policy limit. After a severe Queens reckless driving accident, many households suffer financially because they do not receive the full amount of lost income from missing work, making it crucial to bring a lawsuit to seek additional compensation. The same is true if an accident victim suffers severe injuries that prevent returning to their job or seeking gainful employment in the future.
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering. Reckless driving accidents are physically and emotionally painful events—the more severe the accident, the more pain an accident victim faces. New York PIP insurance coverage does not cover pain and suffering after a Queens reckless driving accident. Those who suffer severe or permanent injuries must take action against the reckless driver who caused their injuries to receive compensation for pain and suffering.
- Other damages. Those who sustain injuries in a Queens reckless driving accident might suffer other damages not listed above. Other damages might include easily quantifiable things, like expenses for household help or the cost of making a home more accessible after a permanent injury. Other damages include additional non-economic damages such as reduced quality of life, loss of consortium with a spouse, and/or scarring and disfigurement.
Tips to Preserve the Value of Your Queens Reckless Driving Accident Claim
Whether you are driving to and from JFK International Airport or down Main Street, you deserve compensation for your injuries if a reckless driver causes an accident. However, you need to take some steps to ensure you have the best case possible against the reckless driver.
Some tips for preserving the value of your Queens reckless driving accident claim include:
- Seek immediate medical treatment, so you have medical documentation of your injuries for the insurance company. You should also follow your doctor’s orders, so the insurance company cannot argue that you made your injuries worse.
- Gather information at the scene of the accident if you are physically able. Sometimes reckless drivers leave the accident scene, especially if NYPD responds slowly. Do not put yourself in danger, but try to get the driver’s contact information and insurance information. You should also record contact information from any eyewitnesses.
- Use your cell phone to take video and photos of the accident scene, property damage to vehicles, and any visible injuries you have.
- Consult an experienced Queens car accident injury attorney as soon as possible to handle your claim and bring a lawsuit for you if necessary. This protects you from questionable tactics that insurance companies sometimes use to devalue injury claims.