Tennessee Reckless Driving Laws

The state of Tennessee categorizes reckless driving as a criminal offense, which incurs administrative penalties with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Reckless Driving in Tennessee

According to Title 55 of the Tennessee legal code, reckless driving encompasses any driving offense exhibiting wanton or willful disregard for the property or safety of others. A specific subsection of the reckless driving statutes notes that operating a motorcycle with the front wheel raised in virtually any setting is also deemed reckless driving by the state.

Reckless Driving Penalties in Tennessee



Criminal Penalties

Points Applied to License

Other Administrative Penalties

Reckless Driving

Class B Misdemeanor

Incarceration of not more than 6 months, with fines not to exceed $500


Automatic license suspension, length at discretion of courts

Impact on Your Driver's License

As noted above, 6 points are applied to a driver's license, but regardless of the points involved, drivers arrested for reckless driving also face automatic license suspension, pending the outcome of a Department of Safety (DOS) hearing. In Tennessee, accumulation of 12 or more points within a two-year period results in a license suspension, but a Department of Safety hearing prior to suspension is allowed. Likewise, offenders are given a warning when accumulating more than 6 points within a two-year period, allowing the possibility of a hearing as well.

Dealing with a Reckless Driving Charge in Tennessee

From an administrative end, dealing with the licensing issues will revolve around appearance and performance at the DOS hearing. In cases of reckless driving, where license suspension is pending, having legal counsel involved is advisable. Depending on a driver's history, a number of options are available to prevent outright suspension, including attendance at defensive driving schools (pending the hearing court and criminal court's approval), hardship licenses (pending the hearing court's approval), and if applicable, other case-specific arrangements.

As far as criminal penalties, drivers do face the potential of incarceration, although save for egregious cases or those involving repeat offenses, this does not often occur in practice. Typically, a driver's best chance to contest the pending charges, with the ultimate aim of negotiating a plea option that prevents incarceration and limits the fallout related to licensing, will be from the outset of arrest, which is why having legal counsel involved is so important.

When to Get a Lawyer

Reckless driving statutes in Tennessee are highly vague, encompassing a limitless number of driving acts that law enforcement must subjectively determine the nature of, and in many cases, persons charged with reckless driving are not in violation of such serious criminal laws, but rather, a lesser traffic violation, such as speeding or other moving violations. By using a Tennessee reckless driving attorney, a driver can determine their case-specific legal rights and by extension, move forward with attempting to a readjust the charges faced, prevent incarceration and maintain a valid license.

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