Reckless Driving in Ohio
19 Aug
Author: Colin Maher
Date: 2014-08-19
Categories: Traffic

What is Reckless Driving in Ohio?

First, the offense most people call reckless driving is actually called reckless operation in the Ohio Revised Code. The law, O.R.C 4611.20, is titled “Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property,” and the key text reads, “No person shall operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street or highway in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.”

Ignore the stuff about trolleys and street cars. An important thing to understand about Ohio’s reckless operation statute is that a vehicle can be just about anything with wheels and a motor. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and scooters meet the definition of vehicle.

Another thing to understand is that “willful or wanton disregard” has no statutory definition. Lawyers call this a term of art — something that has a generally accepted meaning for police, prosecutors and judges.

In Ohio, willful conduct describes an action that is taken intentionally, designedly, knowingly, or purposely. Wanton conduct is something done without a good excuse or without respect to the rights of others. To act in a wanton manner is to do a thing just because you feel like doing it and regardless of whether the activity might injure people or inflict damage.

Charging a driver with reckless operation indicates that the police officer or state trooper believes the driver demonstrated indifference to the consequences of his or her actions behind the wheel. Convicting that driver requires presenting clear and indisputable evidence that the person drove in way that could endangered life, limb, health or property while also knowing that his or her actions could cause harm.

What Is Considered Reckless Driving in Ohio?

Outlining the legal theory underlying a reckless operation case will make possible defenses against the charge easier to explain. But before getting into that, it is worth looking at a few examples of what is considered reckless driving in Ohio courts have identified as instances of punishable reckless driving.

Drivers have been convicted for

  • Exceeding the posted speed limit by 25 mph or more
  • Violating the assured clear distance statute, which requires drivers to leave enough space between themselves and other vehicles to stop without causing rear-end collisions
  • Failing to yield to the right of way of a pedestrian.
  • Swerving over a highway edge line and toward a highway patrol trooper
  • Stopping abruptly in a lane of traffic
  • Exhibiting road rage

Note that none of these traffic violation are, by themselves, automatically considered and charged as reckless driving in Ohio. The ticketing officer must also cite a clear danger to people or property. That is where a reckless operation defense attorney will likely focus.

Questions that must be answered include

  • What led the officer to suspect recklessness?
  • How was the accused driver acting willfully and wantonly?
  • How and when did the officer observe those actions he or she considers reckless?
  • Many reasons can explain losing control of one’s vehicle and even harming others. What proof exists to illustrate reckless behavior?

What Are the Reckless Operation Penalties in Ohio?

Mounting a vigorous defense against a reckless operation charge is essential because even a first-time conviction can result in a driver’s license suspension. In each instance, the conviction puts 4 penalty points on the driver’s record with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (2 points for some municipal convictions). Accumulating 12 penalty points in a 24-month period triggers an automatic license suspension.

The rest of the penalty chart for reckless operation looks like this:

Reckless Operation Charge Maximum Fine for Reckless Operation

First offense with no other traffic violations



First offense with a conviction or guilty plea to another traffic violation in the previous 12 months


Up to 60 days

Second or third offense with a conviction or guilty plea to another traffic violation in the previous 12 months


Up to 60 days

Hire a Columbus, Ohio Reckless Driving Attorney

Colin Maher of The Maher Law Firm represents drivers in all kinds of traffic cases in Columbus and surrounding Franklin County. You can speak to him now by calling (614) 205-2208 or connecting with Colin online.

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