What Exactly Is ‘Reckless’ Driving?

Reckless Driving And Your Insurance | Hippo.co.za

You know that driving recklessly could derail your Car Insurance claim... but do you know how the law (and your insurer) determine what qualifies as reckless driving?


The consequences of reckless and negligent driving can be severe. Aside from the significant risk you're posing to other road users (and yourself), you may also face arrest, leading to a fine or imprisonment and the suspension of your driver's licence. If you cause a collision while driving recklessly, your insurance provider may also reject your claim.


But what qualifies as 'reckless' or 'negligent' driving? Under South African law, you could be arrested on the spot for:


• exceeding the posted speed limit by 30km/h in an urban area
• exceeding the posted speed limit by 40km/h outside an urban area
• excessively overloading a vehicle
• operating a vehicle with a fraudulent licence, licence disc or licence plates
• the absence of licence plates


Being arrested for the above will result in a criminal trial, where the judge may impose a fine and/or prison sentence. Either way, it will lead to a permanent criminal record.


Punishment For Speeding


If you exceed the speed limit by the figures indicated above (say, by driving at 100km/h in a 60km/h zone, or at 173km/h on a highway), you will be arrested and held until your bail is posted. A date will then be set for your trial where a prosecutor will bring the case in front of a judge.


Your sentence will be at the judge's discretion. If you're a first-time offender, you'll likely pay a heavy fine and your prison sentence will be optional or deferred, or possibly replaced with community service.


But that's still not a reason to risk speeding. There are serious consequences that have to be faced. In a 2016 case, the Hibberdene Magistrate's Court in KwaZulu-Natal convicted a man for speeding, fining him R40 000 and suspending his licence for 12 months. Singer Steve Hofmeyer was convicted of speeding in 2014, and was fined R10 000 with the option of imprisonment.


Reckless Driving And Your Insurance


Your Car Insurance provider can refuse your claim if you were driving recklessly when the accident occurred. Read your insurance contract, taking special notice of the "duty of care" clause. The concept of "duty of care" is defined as the reasonable care and attention a reasonable person would employ while operating a motor vehicle.


Although the law is clear, proving (or disproving) reckless and negligent driving can become extremely complex. It often involves both parties' legal teams battling it out with the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI) acting as referee.


If you're thinking that means you can go over the speed limit on the M1 highway, think again. In a recent case, the insurer successfully proved that the operator of the vehicle was driving recklessly. By obtaining a copy of the car's tracker report, the vehicle was found to be travelling (if 'travelling' is even the right word) at 132km/h in a 60km/h zone. That's illegal, and the Ombudsman found that the excessive speed contributed to the incident. Fortunately no-one was hurt. The insurance company's rejection of the claim was upheld.


The bottom line is that if you drive recklessly you're putting your life, your passengers' lives, and other road users' lives at risk. It's illegal. It's dangerous. It's stupid. Don't do it.


Driving a vehicle can be a dangerous activity, but there are easy ways to greatly reduce the risk to yourself and those around you, and make sure that your insurance claim is not rejected in the event of an unfortunate incident. Always obey the posted speed limit, never overload your vehicle, and always ensure that your licences are up to date.


Also, always ensure that you're insured. Use our hassle-free tool to compare Car Insurance quotes, and drive (safely) with peace of mind.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice. 

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