Most people are careful drivers who make sure that they follow the law and basic driver etiquette. Despite those efforts, many people still end up in car accidents. If the accident happens due to someone else’s negligence, victims and their families often struggle to understand what happened and why.

What is often most upsetting is when someone drives in a way that disregards the safety of other people. Sometimes law enforcement calls this reckless driving, and far too many people on the road lose their lives because of it. A recent study found some troubling statistics here in South Dakota as this state now ranks the third highest for rates of reckless driving. If you find this troubling, there are several things you need to know that may help keep your family safe.

Outline of the study

The researchers who created the study looked at driving records for 1.9 million car owners. They cross-referenced the data with additional information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and police employee data from the FBI. They took that data and compared the number of reckless drivers with the number of police officers, making sure to account for each state’s population.

They found that South Dakota ranked third highest for the number of reckless drivers in the nation. For every 10,000 motorists, there were 49.3 reckless drivers. Though that may not sound like much, the number is 172% higher than the national average. Furthermore, South Dakota has 11% more police officers per driver compared to the national average. That seems to suggest that police presence doesn’t always influence the rates of reckless driving.

What constitutes reckless driving?

If you aren’t certain what reckless driving entails, here is a basic explanation. Reckless driving occurs when someone drives without regard for the rules and regulations of the road. There are different standards for different states, and each has its own set of punishments for the crime. Some places even refer to reckless driving as “driving to endanger” or “reckless operation”. It could include speeding, driving while intoxicated or disregarding traffic signals.

What are the punishments for reckless driving?

As the parameters for reckless driving vary state to state, so too do the punishments. In South Dakota, those convicted of reckless driving could face a significant fine, have their license suspended, see their insurance rates rise for five years or even go to jail. This state also ranks third for harshest punishments for reckless driving. A convicted person could spend up to a year in jail or pay up to a $2,000 fine.

Though the penalties for reckless driving are significant, they are not the only way to hold a person responsible for a car crash. If a reckless driver negatively affects you and your family, you may want to pursue civil litigation in addition to any criminal trial. What is most important is that you know your legal rights for seeking justice.