What Is Reckless Driving?


June 12, 2024
Team Pineapple

Road safety is a highly discussed topic in South Africa. 

Each year, thousands of people lose their lives due to road accidents like human error, inadequate infrastructure, vehicle defects, and environmental conditions. 

Sometimes, a driver's behaviour directly causes road accidents, such as speeding, drag racing, or texting while driving.

Join us as we dig into the root causes of reckless driving while examining its far-reaching effects on road safety. Plus, learn what proactive measures are taken by insurance providers, such as Pineapple (self-plug, because why not?), to fight against this pressing and often devastating issue.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss this one.

How does Pineapple Define Reckless Driving?

(Before you ask, yes, we will italicise the word Pineapple each time it pops up. Why? Because we ✨can✨.)

Reckless driving is the purposeful or deliberate act of operating a motor vehicle that endangers the lives or property of other motorists, pedestrians, passengers or yourself. This involves disregarding traffic laws governed by South Africa’s National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) 93 of 1996. This act stipulates the rules of the road and the penalties for failing to follow them.

Examples of reckless driving include but are not limited to:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Aggressive manoeuvres
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
  • Running red lights and not yielding according to traffic signs/laws

Not to be confused with negligent driving, defined as “a failure to exercise reasonable care while driving (tailgating, ignoring road signs and signals, failing to give right of way, etc.)”, reckless driving carries heavy consequences.

Should you be found guilty of reckless driving, you could pay a hefty fine, possibly face a criminal charge or, worse, prison time! In other instances, you may lose your driving privileges altogether by having your licence suspended.

The following examples of reckless driving are grounds for an immediate arrest:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 km/h in an urban area and 40 km/h outside an urban area or on a freeway.

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug having a narcotic effect (DUI).

  • Excessive overloading.

  • Fraudulent license, license disk or number plates.

  • Absence of number plates.

Unsurprisingly, DUIs and speeding are among the biggest culprits of car crashes in South Africa; however, another major threat, in the form of a mobile device, has emerged.

An unknown source, mentioned in an article by Arrive Alive, found that out of 837 drivers with cell phones, “almost half swerved or drifted into another lane, 23% had tailgated, 21% cut someone off, and 18% nearly hit another vehicle while using [a] phone.” 

Sending or reading the average SMS takes about 5 seconds… which is a long time to take your eyes off the road. 

Say you’re travelling at 80 or 90km/h; This would mean that for about five seconds, you would have covered a distance of the length of a soccer or rugby field, all without seeing! 

That is quite a distance.

Another article, this one on Business Live, similarly found that texters are 35% slower to react or respond than drunk drivers (12%), showing the seriousness of this matter. 

It isn’t simply taking your eyes off the road “for, literally, just two seconds”. It’s putting lives at stake.

What types of “distracted driving” are there? We’ve discovered a few: 

  1. Visual distraction – taking your eyes off the road (to adjust your radio, for example).

  1. Manual distraction – taking your hands off the steering wheel. 

  1. Auditory distraction – distractions caused by hearing something not related to driving.

  1. Cognitive distraction – thinking about something other than driving.

A million things are fighting to steal your attention from the vital task of driving while fully cognisant. Distractions are hard to fight because they’re difficult to predict.

Which explains why insurance exists: to protect you when the unthinkable happens.

(Short ad-break: Have a car? We’d like to have it in our possession. Of coverage, that is. Get a quote with Pineapple now. It’s sweet. Anyway, back to the story.) 

Implications of Reckless Driving

Reckless driving has wide-ranging implications that further increase the risk of vehicle accidents and the loss of lives on South Africa’s already troubled roads.

Behaviour such as speeding, aggressive manoeuvring, and disregarding traffic laws create chaotic conditions that can lead to collisions. These crashes result in property damage and injuries, which somebody (the driver of the vehicle at fault) needs to take accountability for.

Let’s start with the danger of speeding as an example of reckless driving. Speeding affects the vehicle’s reaction time. 

So, for example, going 2 x higher speed = 2 x longer reaction time. 

Speeding shortens a driver's reaction time, leading to a higher collision risk. It also affects the car’s ability to come to a stop or swerve around any objects that suddenly appear on the road. 

In addition, speeding also increases the number of rollover accidents and simultaneously reduces a driver’s ability to exercise vehicle control.

Worst still, vehicles are less responsive to steering inputs when travelling at high speeds. So, the effectiveness of safety systems such as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control is heavily reduced and not at an optimum operating level. 

Plus, the added strain on your tyres and brakes increases their risk of failure.

South Africa's traffic department cares greatly about this cause. It took this issue so seriously that it participated in the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 project.

The aim was to save at least 5 million lives by implementing life-saving methods like reducing speed and drunk driving and increasing the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.

Another method SA’s traffic law officials have aimed to deter the public from committing reckless driving on South Africa’s roads is coming down hard on guilty offenders.

The consequences of reckless driving include paying penalties and fines, license suspension or revocation, and even imprisonment. 

Yup, that’s right; the slammer. 

The punishment will, of course, depend on the severity and any resulting harm or damage caused by the reckless act.

The effects of being labelled a reckless driver don’t stop there. Your insurance provider will likely want a piece of the pie when dealing with the consequences of your actions.

Insurers assess the risk of insuring a person’s possessions based on factors like their driving history, for example. So, if your driving history raises more red flags than The Tinder Swindler, you may find yourself paying higher premiums, if you can even get insured at all.

The more violations you have on your driving record, the riskier your insurance will perceive you. Therefore, your premiums will be pricier. 

A car insurance provider can also reject a client’s claim for a payout after an accident should they find the insured policyholder (that’s you!) was driving carelessly when the incident occurred. 

Should an offence involve a DUI or driving without a valid South African driver’s licence, the result of your claim will not be successful. If you’re caught drunk driving, your insurer can even black-mark you. 

Lastly, in cases where reckless driving results in accidents, injuries, or death, motorists can find themselves facing civil lawsuits and criminal charges. If these charges stick,  this can undoubtedly lead to imprisonment.

So, to track reckless road behaviour, some insurers have turned to using telematics devices or smartphone apps to monitor driving habits like speeding, harsh braking, and hard accelerating.

These devices can collect data on road behaviour and use it to calculate risk scores, directly influencing insurance premiums.

This is all to reduce the frequency and severity of road-related accidents on Mzansi’s roads, which benefit policyholders and the broader community.

Causes of Reckless Driving

As mentioned earlier (*hits rewind button* ⏪), “A million things are fighting to steal your attention from the vital task of driving while fully cognisant.” 

Meaning there are a million possible causes that can result in reckless and distracted driving. But, for the sake of time (mostly yours, not ours, we swear), we’re not going to list all these causes, only a few. 

But hey, if you’re something like the author of this article and you have nothing better to do on a Friday night, you can bust out a pen and paper and get to making that list.

The causes of reckless driving can range from a lack of awareness and impaired driving. 

What makes this scary is most of the causes of reckless driving are under our control. And what’s more frightening than taking accountability for one’s actions, right?

These are the common causes of reckless driving, as identified by DSC Attorneys:

  1. Distractions.
  2. Driving under the influence.
  3. Speeding.
  4. Reckless driving.
  5. Jaywalking.
  6. Bad weather.
  7. Poor road conditions.
  8. Faulty vehicle.


We’ve lectured you long and hard on what distracted driving is, so we trust we don’t have to rehash this topic too much. Simply remember that texting, talking on the phone, eating, or adjusting the radio are distractions. 

Distractions are those events that can significantly impair a driver's ability to focus on the road.

Driving under the influence

All those who drink and then drive, put your hands in the air! And keep them there because you’re under arrest.

Or, in a perfect world, you would be. Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of substances or narcotics is against South African law.

One of the leading causes of traffic accidents worldwide is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The punishment depends on the circumstances of the offence, the driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, and whether they’re a first-timer or repeat offender.

The legal BAC limit for South African drivers is 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, as specified by the National Road Traffic Act. For a breathalyser test, it’s 0,24 milligrams of alcohol per 1,000 millilitres of breath.

  • First-time offenders with a BAC level above the legal limit but below 0.08 grams per 100 millilitres of blood may encounter a fine, suspension of their driver's licence, or both.

  • Repeat offenders or those found with a BAC surpassing 0.08 grams per 100 millilitres of blood face more severe consequences like heavier fines, extended licence suspensions, and they might have to serve a mandatory prison sentence.

  • Professional drivers are held to even higher standards; their limit is a mere 0.02 grams per 100 millilitres of blood. Exceeding this limit can lead to the loss of their professional driving permits.


Another topic we’ve already touched on is the subject of speeding. What we forgot to mention is that speeding amplifies the force of impact in the event of a crash, leading to more severe injuries and devastating fatalities. 

To address the issue of speeding, law enforcement efforts have implemented traffic calming measures like speed bumps and traffic circles. They also educate drivers about the dangers of speeding through public awareness campaigns like Arrive Alive, Buckle Up, and Speed Kills.

Reckless driving

Yet another blast from the recent past is reckless driving, which is what this entire article is about. It's actually trippy to think about, in an Inception sort of way. 

Reckless driving encompasses a wide range of dangerous behaviours on the road, with drivers exhibiting a disregard for the safety of others and engaging in risky behaviours that increase the likelihood of accidents.


It’s almost strange to think of this next one as risky behaviour, as it’s common in our country. We’re ashamed to admit that we might’ve also done this at one point: jaywalking.

Jaywalking is when pedestrians cross the street outside the designated crosswalks or against traffic signals (crossing when the robot is red). Jaywalking can be hazardous, especially in areas with heavy traffic or high-speed roadways. Accidents can happen when pedestrians are struck or motorists swerve to avoid them.

Bad weather

Less than stellar weather conditions like heavy rain, fog, and even snow (not that we get a lot of that, but still, hear me out) create hazardous driving conditions and increase the risk of accidents.

Bad weather affects visibility, causes slippery road surfaces, and results in decreased traction, making it harder to control the car and respond to hazards on the road. To minimise this risk, drivers should reduce their speed, increase their following distance, and use headlights and windshield wipers when needed.

Poor road conditions

Almost as South African as a braai or overusing the word ‘Shame’, poor road conditions have become one of Mzansi’s defining characteristics. Potholes, uneven surfaces, and lack of maintenance can contribute to car accidents and vehicle damage. 

Faulty Vehicle

Faulty car components or mechanical failures can compromise vehicle safety and increase the risk of accidents. Typical vehicle issues include brake failure, tyre blowouts, steering system malfunctions, and electrical problems.

It’s an arduous task, but someone’s got to do it. And who better to take care of your car than you? You’re the one who loves your car the most.  

The bottom line is that by addressing these factors, you can work towards creating safer roadways for all road users and reducing the incidence of reckless driving-related incidents.

Prevention Strategies to Avoid Driving Recklessly

  1. Practice Patience

Safe driving begins with having a saint's patience and a pilot's composure.  

Cultivating the spirit of patience is the key to remaining composed in challenging situations. Patience will also make it easier to refrain from aggressive driving behaviour like tailgating, excessive honking, or making risky manoeuvres out of frustration.

Self-restraint will mean accepting that delays and congestion are inevitable parts of driving. 

  1. Maintain Safe Following Distances

And, for those that might not be aware, the "two-second rule" or “three cars ahead rule” is a simple method for determining what a safe following distance of the speed of the vehicle ahead is.

Maintaining a safe distance from the car in front of you allows for sufficient braking distance and reaction time to avoid rear-end collisions. It also helps reduce the severity of impact in the event of sudden stops or traffic slowdowns. 

  1. Focus on the Task at Hand

And as we discussed earlier, some situations will be outside your control. However, distractions like using smartphones, eating, adjusting the radio, or interacting with passengers are things you can control.

So, try to limit distractions by prioritising your focus on driving and minimise activities that take attention away from the road.

The best way to do so is by implementing methods like using hands-free devices for phone calls, pre-setting navigation systems before starting the journey, and avoiding multitasking while driving. 

For parents travelling with children, this may not always be the easiest thing to do, given how unpredictable children’s moods can be.

Parents with young kids should ensure everything their child needs is within reach and easy to access to minimise the need to divert their attention from the road. If you simply can’t wait until you reach your destination, pull over (only when necessary) in a safe location and attend to their needs.

Safe places to pull over include a rest stop, fuel station (garage) or parking lot.

  1. Respect Traffic Laws

Of course, none of the above matters if you’re not obeying traffic laws. Adhering to road safety laws is instrumental in practising safe driving and contributes to an orderly traffic flow.

So, respect the speed limits, traffic signals, and road signs. Remember to yield the right of way and wait your turn–we promise you will get a chance to go.

  1. Drive Sober

Driving sober isn’t just a nice suggestion; it’s a legal requirement. 

There are numerous affordable ehailing services in South Africa; you can get a family member, friend or another trusted individual to pick you up or drive your car home. So, there’s no reason to risk lives or throw your life away.

Similarly, operating a vehicle while tired, stressed, or emotionally distraught can impair judgement and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents.

Avoid impaired driving by taking as many breaks as needed, especially during long treks, getting enough rest before driving, and practising stress-relief techniques to maintain alertness.

  1. Stay Educated

Stay clued up on traffic laws and safety guidelines by participating in driver education programmes, attending defensive driving courses, or accessing online resources and websites for traffic safety information.

You may have left school, but you should always continue learning. Continued education means safer driving and helps drivers adapt to changing road rules, conditions and environments.


You now understand the causes and implications of reckless driving, so by now, we hope you understand why this knowledge is essential for promoting safer roads and reducing the risk of accidents.

Recognising the various factors contributing to reckless behaviour allows you to take proactive steps to prioritise safety on the road.

Remember, reckless driving jeopardises your safety and endangers the lives of other road users.

Therefore, it's crucial to cultivate patience, limit distractions, respect traffic laws, and stay focused while driving. Additionally, avoiding impaired driving, maintaining safe following distances, staying educated, and planning are critical strategies for enhancing road safety.

For comprehensive coverage and peace of mind, consider Pineapple's affordable car insurance, priced at just R19-ish a day, which includes emergency roadside assistance should you fall victim to reckless driving. 

If you ever find yourself stranded on the side of the road, call our emergency contact number (087 365 8626*) or use our emergency accommodation benefit.

*Reserved for Pineapple clients only, so why not get insured?

Choose Pineapple for reliable coverage and support whenever you need it most. Sound good? Get a quote now.

Drive responsibly and stay safe out there.

Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Alternative Risk Transfer Insure Limited, a licensed Non-Life Insurer and authorised FSP. T&Cs apply.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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