You might not take reckless driving or careless driving seriously until you face criminal charges for one or the other. However, both are traffic offenses that can incur points on your license, fines and sometimes imprisonment.

When talking about serious traffic offenses, people sometimes group reckless and careless driving together. Though similar in some respects, they are different offenses with different penalties. The Colorado Legislative Council Staff includes both of them under the larger umbrella of distracted driving laws but gives a separate explanation of each.

Reckless driving

The initial reckless driving violation is a class 2 misdemeanor, incurring four points on your license and a $300 fine. For subsequent violations, you could spend between 10 days to six months in jail and pay a fine ranging between $50 to $1,000. Reckless driving means showing willful or wanton disregard for others’ safety or property while driving. In other words, reckless driving means choosing to operate a vehicle in a way that you know could cause harm to others.

Careless driving

Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor unless it causes death or bodily injury to someone else. Then it becomes a class 1 misdemeanor, incurring a $1,000 fine and/or up-to one year in prison. Careless driving means not showing due regard for the driving circumstances, such as corners, curves, grade, road width or surrounding traffic. However, unlike reckless driving, careless driving does not involve an intention to drive in a manner that is unsafe. Rather, it means making decisions behind the wheel that are imprudent given the conditions, which may happen due to distraction or inattention rather than conscious choice.