The traffic in Atlanta is terrible, and so are many of the drivers, apparently. The national stats even confirm it: Atlanta and Marietta topped the nation’s list of cities with the highest reckless driving rates per capita.

In Georgia, the legal definition of “reckless driving” is operating a motor vehicle with “reckless disregard for the safety of persons and property.” A reckless driving conviction, a misdemeanor in Georgia, adds four points on your driving record and carries with it the possibility of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Consider yourself lucky if the judge in your case offers you the option to enter a nolo contendere plea, which allows you to escape points all together. Be aware, however, that the Georgia Department of Driver Services will record your nolo plea on your Motor Vehicle Record, which will likely trigger a rate hike from your insurer.

In addition, those convicted of reckless driving are often placed on probation, which means being cited for a second such charge can send the driver directly to jail. If you are under the age of 21 at the time you are cited, your license is suspended. Plus, a reckless driving conviction can never be expunged from a driving record. Once convicted of reckless driving, the driver will have to state this fact on all job, college and rental applications as well as other legal forms.

Although these convictions do not usually require jail time, there are certain factors which can increase the chances of jail time, such as a repeat offense; driving carelessly near schools and in neighborhoods and construction areas; or putting other drivers in danger.

A reckless offense often involves speeding and even “super speeding,” a more serious form of exceeding the posted limit – being clocked at a rate of 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or at 85 or more on any road or highway in the state.

If you are a chronic speeder or super speeder in Georgia, your aggressive driving could be careening you toward the offense of reckless driving. Slow down now and you can avoid the life-changing consequences of this serious violation.