Careless Driving

Careless driving is defined as driving which falls below the standard of a reasonably competent driver and is made an offence by Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Careless driving or to use its legal term; driving without due care and attention varies enormously in seriousness, probably more than any other single motoring offence. It is punishable by way of a licence endorsement of between 3 and 9 penalty points and a maximum fine of up to £5,000. In serious cases the Courts have an unlimited power to disqualify.

Most, although not all, prosecutions for careless driving arise directly out of some form of road traffic accident. Although the offence itself is one of driving without proper care (or consideration for other road users) it is rare that prosecutions are brought unless there is some clear result of that inadequate driving. Such a clear result is almost always some form of collision whether involving another vehicle, a third party or property. Inevitably in such a situation different persons whether they be drivers or passengers are likely to have different recollections and to report different versions of events. It is for this reason that careless driving, more than any other motoring offence, results in prosecutions which are not ‘clear cut’ and which may be, and very frequently should be, challenged.

Careless driving is one of the most common of motoring offences and also one of the most misunderstood. To commit an offence of careless driving what is required is for driving, either over a period of time or momentarily, to fall below the standard of a reasonably competent driver. This can include obvious examples of carelessness such as overtaking whilst leaving insufficient space to complete the manoeuvre causing a collision or of failing to negotiate a bend and leaving the road. Failing to brake in time and colliding with a vehicle in front is also an extremely common cause of prosecutions for careless driving. Even the most careful of drivers may make a momentary error, fail to see that motorcyclist or fail to appreciate the presence of an oncoming vehicle and as a result an accident may occur resulting in a police prosecution.

Careless driving cases by their very nature are rarely black and white and even where a driver may be guilty of driving without due care and attention nevertheless there may be good mitigation to put before the Court to minimise the fine and penalty points. Remember time and effort spent in preparing for your case at Court can be the difference between being disqualified or not. If you receive a summons for driving without due care and attention then the first thing you should do is to look objectively at the evidence and consider carefully your part in the incident concerned. Remember although there may be a collision that does not necessarily require either driver to be guilty of driving without due care and attention. Equally just because one driver might be guilty of careless driving does not necessarily mean that the other one was not as well, each case is unique and has to be judged on its own merits.

Jeremy Sirrell