Reckless drivers are everywhere. In the state of Louisiana, there were more than 40,000 accidents resulting in an injury in 2020. 98,000 others resulted in property damage only.
There were many different causes for these accidents. Most of them shared one thing in common: they led to careless operation charges. Yet you can get charged for careless operation even if you don’t cause an accident.
What does careless operation mean? What are the state laws that you should know? How can you avoid and fight a charge?
Answer these questions and you can drive your car without worrying about traffic fines and court dates. Here is your quick guide.
The Definition of Careless Operation
The Louisiana State Legislature has crafted a general definition of careless operation. The first section of the definition discusses the responsibility of drivers.
They must “drive in a careful and prudent manner, so as not to endanger… any person.” Failing to do so counts as careless operation.
The second section lays out the penalties if careless operation results in death. The driver must perform community service up to 250 hours and their license may be suspended for two years.
The State Legislature does not describe what “a careful and prudent manner” means. They also do not lay out the penalties for careless operation that does not lead to death.
Many cities and parishes have provided a little more clarity. A careless operation charge in Baton Rouge leads to a fine of 139 dollars.
What exactly constitutes careless driving is not mentioned. In theory, it can include speeding, failure to signal, and tailgating too close to vehicles. But it is largely up to the police officer’s discretion.
Other Forms of Careless Operation
The State Legislature has another law pertaining to careless operation during flood conditions. They define careless operation as the opposite of driving “in a careful and prudent manner.” Anyone who fails to drive safely can get a charge.
The law extends protections to a few specific individuals. People operating public utility, military, and emergency vehicles have a “rebuttable presumption” that they were driving safely. This gives them more latitude to speed or drive through red lights.
Some municipalities extend their careless operation laws to other vehicles. In New Orleans, operating a streetcar recklessly can lead to a charge.
Many people know about “reckless driving.” There is no reckless driving charge on the state level.
Some municipalities have two separate laws regulating reckless driving and careless operation. The differences between these laws are insignificant. Reckless driving may apply specifically to cars, while careless operation applies to other vehicles.
The State Legislature has passed a number of laws specific to practices that may count as careless operation. It is illegal for any individual to drive on a highway faster than 55 miles per hour.
It is illegal to ignore road signs. Drivers must stop at stop signs, and they must slow down after yield signs. They cannot bring certain vehicles onto a roadway if a sign prohibits them from entering.
A police officer could issue you separate charges for careless driving and another offense. Read the state and local laws on vehicle operation. Follow them without any deviation.
How to Prevent a Careless Operation Charge
The definition is so broad that any number of practices could constitute operation. In general, following good defensive driving tips will decrease your chance of getting charged.
Whenever you are backing up or executing a turn, you should check your blind spots. Look through your side and rearview mirrors.
Then look through your side windows and make sure the area is clear. You can then back up or make a turn. Use your blinkers and make hand signals so other drivers know where you are going.
Drive below the speed limit. If you are driving in inclement weather, you should drive far slower. An officer may think it is reckless to drive on a wet road at 45 miles per hour.
Try to avoid driving at night. When you do, turn on your lights and watch for road signs. Take a break after two hours of constant driving so you can refresh yourself.
If you ever get into an accident, respond to it. Pull your car over and exchange contact information with the other people involved.
Getting involved in vehicle accidents may lead to some penalties. But fleeing the scene of accidents will certainly lead to significant consequences. A ticket for violating traffic regulations is nothing in comparison to going to jail for negligence.
How to Defend Yourself
When an officer pulls you over, get a clear sense of what is going on. They may tell you why you are getting a careless operation charge.
Their rationale may not make sense. But do not get into an argument with them.
You risk escalating the situation or saying something that you should not say. If you get arrested, do not evade arrest.
Call a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. You can find someone who specializes in the laws related to operating a vehicle. If you can’t, you can hire a generalized lawyer.
Talk to them about challenging your ticket. Get witness statements from your passengers and gather statements from any surrounding witnesses. Practice giving testimony for your court appearance.
Go to the designated court on time while dressed professionally. Let your lawyer say their prepared remarks, but offer support whenever you can.
Hire the Best Traffic Lawyer in Louisiana
Careless operation can mean a lot of things. The State Legislature has crafted a very broad definition, including for operating a vehicle during flood conditions. Local laws don’t clarify matters.
In general, careless operation relies on the police officer’s discretion. Speeding and failing to signal may count. These traffic violations do have their own laws.
Be a cautious defensive driver and attend to accidents. Do not argue with the police when you get a citation.
Call a lawyer and defend yourself in court. Carl Barkemeyer serves the Baton Rouge area. Contact us today.