Ohio has three basic reckless operation laws on the books. The one that is enforced most often applies to driving vehicles on public roads and highways. Another addresses reckless driving on private property, and the third deals with the reckless operation of boats and personal watercraft.
All deserve to be taken seriously because police and courts treat the alleged offenses as misdemeanors rather than minor traffic violations. Also, a conviction or guilty plea can put 2 or 4 points on a driver’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles record. Anyone who accumulates 12 points within a 24-month period will have their license suspended.
Effective defenses exist against reckless operation charges, especially in cases where the law enforcement officer who made the charge exercised a great deal of personal judgment. Contacting a reckless operation attorney in Franklin County will help an accused driver understand his or her options for going to trial or negotiating a plea deal.
Reckless Operation on Public Roads and Highways
Section 4511.20(A) of the Ohio Revised Code states, in full, “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.” Aside from local ordinances that specify that going more than 25 mph over a posted speed limit, law enforcement officials have a great deal of leeway in making a reckless operation charge.
Alleged offenses that can bring a citation for reckless operation include
- Weaving through slower-moving traffic
- Jumping a curb
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Causing a crash while changing lanes
- Driving on the shoulder or in the median
Two more important things to know about the general reckless operation charge are that Ohio considers pretty much anything with wheels a vehicle and that receiving a sentence for reckless operation requires going to court and appearing before a judge.
Off-road Reckless Operation
This statute — O.R.C. 4511.201 — uses the same “willful or wanton disregard” language as the law pertaining to driving on public roads and highways. It applies, however, to parking lots, driveways, trails, and beaches. Exceptions exist for off-road racing and vehicle demonstrations, but such events must be organized and carried out with the knowledge and permission of the property owner.
Reckless Operation on the Water
O.R.C. 1547.07 actually details which behaviors by boaters will be considered reckless. The first paragraph of the statute lists vessels, water skis, and aquaplanes and prohibits operators from acting “carelessly or heedlessly, or in disregard of the rights or safety of any person, vessel, or property, or without due caution, at a rate of speed or in a manner so as to endanger any person, vessel, or property.”
Later paragraphs make it illegal to go airborne while crossing wakes within 100 feet of another vessel, to follow another vessel too closely, to come within 200 feet of a water skier being towed by another boat, to cause another vessel to swerve to avoid a collision or to weave through traffic.