Reckless vs. Aggressive Driving

Reckless vs. Aggressive Driving

Reckless vs. Aggressive Driving

In North Carolina, reckless driving and aggressive driving are two separate, misdemeanor level, traffic offenses which can lead to harsh penalties and permanent repercussions for any driver found guilty. Many drivers do not realize the serious nature of either of these charges, nor that a distinction between the two exists. It is our hope that this article will provide additional information which will help the reader avoid the mistake of pleading guilty to one of these charges, as there may be other options which can help to evade the harsh implications that may come with doing so.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is classified as a Class 2 Misdemeanor, and is defined as any person driving on a highway or public vehicular area “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others shall be guilty of reckless driving,” or “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.”

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive on the other hand is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, making it a more serious offense than the aforementioned charge of reckless driving. Any person who operates a motor vehicle on a street or highway or public vehicular area is guilty of aggressive driving if:

  • The person is in violation of speed restrictions under North Carolina law, which includes speed limits inside and outside municipal corporate areas and in school zones, AND
  • Committed two or more of the following offenses:
    • Running a red light/stop sign
    • Illegally passing
    • Failing to yield
    • Following too closely


In addition to the complex distinctions between types of traffic offenses in North Carolina, there also exists complex levels of sentencing. This system not only considers the offense the individual is currently dealing with, but also their prior criminal history. Potential punishments for these charges can be active, intermediate, or community.

The distinction between the aforementioned punishments is that an active punishment includes a jail sentence while the subsequent punishments may not. An intermediate punishment, however, would be a supervised probation (may or may not include jail time) while a community punishment would be considered as any punishment other than active punishment (may include house arrest or community service).

For misdemeanors, the Class (1A, 1, 2, or 3) of the offense is matched up against the defendant’s prior conviction level (determined by the number of prior convictions) to decide the length and nature of the sentence. An individual with no prior convictions (Level 1) could expect to be sentenced to community punishment for 1-30 days for reckless driving or 1-45 days for aggressive driving. For individuals with one to four prior convictions (Level 2), a reckless driving conviction could result in a community punishment of 1-45 days or an active, intermediate, or community punishment of 1-45 days with a conviction of aggressive driving. Lastly, an individual with five or more convictions (Level 3)l could receive a community, intermediate, or active punishment of 1-60 days for a reckless driving conviction or 1-120 days for an aggressive driving conviction. Many other factors are also taken into account by the Court when determining the specific length of sentence, but the main takeaway is that both of these offenses are serious and could lead to actual jail time for a person with prior convictions.


In summary, the complicated distinction between reckless driving and aggressive driving, along with the stiff penalties associated with both, is indicative of the complex nature of traffic law in North Carolina itself. It is important to understand the implications of a guilty plea to either of these charges could have significant implications on your driving record, your criminal record, and your insurance premium. If you would like to know more, or if you have received a ticket and would like to hire an attorney, give us a call at 919-200-0822 or CLICK HERE to hire us online, in minutes.