The definition of negligent driving varies depending on state laws. For example, the state of Washington notes in RCW 46.61.5249 that a person is guilty of negligent driving in the first degree if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug. This offense is a misdemeanor.

In Washington, “negligent” means the failure to exercise ordinary care and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under similar circumstances.

Alaska Statute 35.045 states that a person who drives a motor vehicle in the state in a manner that creates an unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property and who, as a result of the creation of the risk, actually endangers a person or property is guilty of negligent driving.

Alaska defines an unjustifiable risk as a risk of such a nature and degree that a failure to avoid it constitutes a deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe. Proof that a defendant endangered a person or property is established by showing that, as a result of the defendant’s driving,

  • an accident occurred;
  • a person, including the defendant, took evasive action to avoid an accident;
  • a person, including the defendant, stopped or slowed down suddenly to avoid an accident; or
  • a person or property, including the defendant or the defendant’s property, was otherwise endangered.

In Alaska, the offense of negligent driving is a lesser offense than, and included in, the offense of reckless driving, and a person charged with reckless driving may be convicted of the lesser offense of negligent driving. A person convicted of negligent driving is guilty of an infraction in this state.

New Hampshire laws definition of negligent driving states that whoever in any way drives a vehicle negligently or causes a vehicle to be driven negligently, as defined in RSA 626:2, (d) [see below], or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property shall be guilty of a violation.

NH law states that a person acts negligently concerning a material element of an offense when he fails to become aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that his failure to become aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the conduct that a reasonable person would observe.

In Maryland, a person is deemed guilty of negligent driving if the person drives in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers property or human life. A negligent driving violation requires the assessment of one point against the driving record.

Some states find that if you are distracted while driving and cause an accident, you are guilty of negligent driving. The distraction can be using a cell phone, texting, etc and then if you are dangerously observed by law enforcement driving, the driver can be stopped and cited for negligent driving. In some states, negligent driving is the same as reckless or careless driving while in other states these are all different charges with different definitions.

To get information on a specific state’s definition of negligent driving you can contact the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. A lawyer familiar with this portion of your state’s negligent driving laws should also be able to give you information on what state laws say and how to look up the statutes pertaining to negligent driving.

It is recommended that you learn about the different types of car insurance to determine which coverages you want when you are behind the wheel.

— Michelle Megna contributed to this story.

author image
Contributing Writer

Shivani Gite is a personal finance and insurance writer with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She is passionate about making insurance topics easy to understand for people and helping them make better financial decisions. When not writing, you can find her reading a book or watching anime.