Ohio Reckless Driving Laws

Ohio uses the terminology “operating in willful or wanton disregard” to define driving offenses that equate to reckless driving. Ohio treats it as a criminal offense, albeit one without the potential of incarceration for first offenders.

Definition of Reckless Driving in Ohio

The definition of operation in willful or wanton disregard in Ohio, while intentionally vague, encompasses any vehicle operation that disregards the safety of other drivers, passengers or pedestrians, or both public and private property. A number of routine moving violations, given the context of the act, can easily be enhanced to operating with willful or wanton disregard in Ohio.

Penalties for Reckless Driving in Ohio



Criminal Penalties

Points Applied to License

Other Administrative Penalties

Operation in willful or wanton disregard

Minor misdemeanor

No potential of incarceration, but fines up to $150, not including fees and other surcharges


Case-specific, but license suspension possible

Operation in willful or wanton disregard, second offense within 1 year

Fourth-degree misdemeanor

Incarceration up to 30 days, with fines up to $250, not including fees and surcharges


Case-specific, license suspension probable

Operation in willful or wanton disregard, third offense within 1 year

Third-degree misdemeanor

Incarceration up to 60 days, with fines up to $500, not including fees and surcharges


Case-specific, license suspension probable

Impact on Your Driver's License

Drivers convicted of reckless driving, or operation in willful or wanton disregard, will face an administrative hearing with the ODPS. Based on the case-specific nature of this hearing, a driver’s license may be automatically suspended for the single offense, and in other cases, point-based suspensions may be applicable as well. Under Ohio administrative law, accumulation of 12 or more points within a 2-year period results in a 6-month license suspension. However, there are options available with the ODPS that may prevent suspension.

Options for Dealing with a Reckless Driving Charge in Ohio

Depending on case-specific factors, you may dispute the prosecution’s case that you did in fact operate with wanton or willful disregard and in turn, question whether a lesser, non-criminal violation is more applicable. Convictions for a first offense do not carry the potential of incarceration, but fine amounts, specifically ancillary surcharges and fees, can prove costly.

In terms of license suspension, you can be eligible for a hardship-based license during your suspension period. Additionally, in order to prevent suspension based on point accumulation, you can attend a state-approved remedial driving course once every 3 years to remove 2 points from your license.

When to Get a Lawyer for Reckless Driving in Ohio

Although incarceration is highly unlikely, you could still face serious penalties at both a criminal and administrative level. The involvement of legal counsel may encourage a favorable plea option or prevent license suspension. If the citation for reckless driving in Ohio occurred with an accident, legal counsel should be involved from the outset, as conviction of traffic violations will likely influence any future civil litigation. For more information and insight, consult with an Ohio reckless driving lawyer to learn more.  

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