Ask A Trooper: What’s the difference between careless, reckless, exhibition driving?

Published 4:29 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: What is the difference between careless or reckless driving? What about “exhibition driving?”

Answer: In general, the difference between reckless and careless is that “reckless” is generally intentional or the driver should know that the driving behavior could injure or kill someone. Here’s more detail on how they differ:

Reckless driving: This involves a motorist who’s aware of and disregards the risk that their driving behavior may result in harm to another or another’s property. That’s considered  misdemeanor reckless driving, and if the behavior results in great bodily harm or death to another person, it’s then gross misdemeanor reckless driving.

A driver shall not race any vehicle on any street or highway. Any person who willfully compares or contests relative speeds is guilty of racing, which constitutes reckless driving. It doesn’t matter whether or not the speed is over the speed limit.

Careless driving: This involves a motorist who carelessly or heedlessly operates or halts any vehicle upon any street or highway that disregards the rights of others, or endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person. This includes endangering themselves or their passengers. This is considered misdemeanor careless driving.

Exhibition driving: Minnesota does not have an exhibition driving law.  Exhibition driving is usually listed as an ordinance within cities, counties, townships, etc.  In general, the difference between state law and an ordinance is that a state law is passed by your state government and is effective state wide.  Ordinances are “laws” passed by the local government — city council, county commissioners, etc. — and only in effect within that border.    

I’ve usually seen most “exhibition driving” ordinances state:  “Unreasonable acceleration of a motor vehicle or acceleration without apparent reason and accomplished in such a manner as to cause squealing or screeching sounds by the tires, or the throwing of sand or gravel by the tires of the said vehicle, or both.”

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at,