Aggressive driving may result in additional criminal penalties

This “drive safely” sign on West Tharpe Street is in memory of Tallahassee resident due who was the victim of an act of reckless and careless driving. Photo by Keveona Rhodes

While the penalties associated with careless and aggressive driving may be substantial in terms of steep fines and points on your license, the consequences of driving negligently are far more devastating and include severe risks like property damage, potential endangerment to yourself, or other drivers and even death.

According to data from the Florida Department of Health, there were 3,273 traffic deaths in Florida in 2019. That death toll is slightly higher than the 3,224 car accident deaths in 2018.

Miami native Kylan Guerrier said that if HB 297 is passed, it could decrease the number of deaths in Florida.

“I’ve personally experienced reckless and careless driving first-hand,” Guerrier said. “While driving last week, someone cut me off and seconds later rear-ended another car. It made me feel extremely bad for the person who was rear-ended because not only was their car ruined but they could have been seriously injured or unresponsive due to a senseless act.”

House Bill 297 was filed by Vance Aloupis, R-Miami. It intends to regulate the high rate of careless and aggressive driving.

According to the bill text, careless and aggressive driving provides additional violations that could result in criminal penalties for violations if there is damage to property or person or serious bodily injury or the death of another person. If passed, the bill could limit the probability of individuals falling victim to property damage, injury or even death.
FAMU grad student Calvin Sykes said that HB 297 makes perfect sense.

“We need more legislation on protecting drivers,” Sykes said. “The fact that we are a no-fault state allows careless drivers to get away with the maximum penalties that they deserve.”

Some aggressive and careless driving behaviors come from driver inexperience, particularly young drivers. Young or new drivers may not comprehend the seriousness that involves acting before they think.

FAMU student Arriell Drayton said that pedestrians are in danger as aggressive drivers speed up and down city streets.

“As I left campus to walk to my car I looked up and saw a car going over 40 miles per hour. I immediately thought about myself and other students who could have easily been impacted by it,” Drayton said. “There are speed limits for a reason and some people take them for granted.”

HB 297 has a companion bill in the other chamber, SB 476, which provides a civil penalty for aggressive careless driving that would require the guilty driver to attend a certain driver improvement course to maintain their driving privileges.

HB 297 is now in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee Appropriations and received its first reading by the House of Representatives on Jan 11.