Strengthening Careless Driving Penalties

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A bill to enhance Minnesota’s reckless driving statute passed with a bipartisan vote in the Minnesota Senate on Tuesday. The bill redefines the reckless driving standard to address drivers who consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that their driving may result in harm to someone or their property.

“By enhancing this law we are making it clear to people that when you’re driving, you should be concentrating on what is in front of you on the road and avoid distractions,” said State Senator Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan & Burnsville), chief author of the bill. “There have been many deaths and grave injuries due to distracted driving and the more precise definition of consciously ignoring known risks provides guidance to prosecutors.”

The bill states that a person who knowingly violates the basic statute is guilty of a misdemeanor, while a person who violates the law and causes great bodily harm or death to another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine while a gross misdemeanor carries a penalty of one year in imprisonment and/or a $3,000 fine.

“With this bill we are enhancing the consequences of these violations to more fairly match the seriousness of distracted driving behavior,” said Sen. Carlson. “We’re taking another big step toward addressing the tragic situations that have affected too many families in Dakota County and across Minnesota.”

“I want to thank Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom for his tenacity in working to get this bill worded just right and for helping the families affected by distracted driving attain the goal of changing the law,” added Sen. Carlson.

This bill is supported by numerous groups including the American Bikers for Awareness Training and Education (ABATE) of Minnesota, the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, the City Attorney of Minneapolis, and the Dakota County Attorney’s Office.

For information on this or other legislation, please contact Sen. Jim Carlson at (651) 297-8073 or

Senator Jim Carlson
Jim Carlson represents District 51, which includes Eagan and areas of Burnsville.

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