What is careless driving?

27th April 2018

What is careless driving?

Careless driving actually constitutes two offences:

  • Driving without due care and attention; and
  • Driving without reasonable consideration for other persons.

For you to be convicted of one of these offences, the court would have to find that you did not exercise the degree of care and skill that would be reasonably expected of a driver in the same circumstances. The test is the same for all road users regardless of age or experience.

If you cannot give a good explanation for why your driving fell below the standard required, you will be convicted.

Many different scenarios can be construed as careless driving, from causing an accident due to a distraction such as smoking or altering the radio, to an accident in which no one else was present, to undertaking and driving through a red light.

Inconsiderate driving does not need to involve any actual accident, but the accused must have driven in a way that inconvenienced other road users.

If you are to be prosecuted for careless driving (either form) you will need to be issued with a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) unless the charges relate to an accident, in which case no NIP has to be given. Possible defences to charges of careless driving without due care and attention include:

  • Arguing that in fact your driving did not fall below the required standard of the competent and careful motorist;
  • A mechanical fault on the car that you did not know about and that you could not reasonably have discovered caused the incident. This latent or hidden defect would need to be reported to the police; at the time of the offence and properly evidenced. The onus would be on the Police to disprove your lack of knowledge i.e. that you knew or ought to have known of the defect;
  • Duress/Necessity – arguing that it was necessary for the careless driving to be undertaken because of a emergency situation usually involving the threat of violence against you or fleeing to escape an assault inflicted by a third party;
  • Potentially where for medical reasons you were rendered temporarily incapable of controlling your vehicle (e.g. sudden coma, epileptic fit);
  • You were participating in an authorised motoring event.

The possible punishments for careless driving include a fine of up to £5,000, 3-9 penalty points and, in serious cases, a disqualification from driving.

Causing death by careless and inconsiderate driving

Causing death by careless and inconsiderate driving is a charge brought against anyone causing a death when driving if their actions come under the definition of driving without due care.

A charge of causing death by careless driving would result from a mistake such as a momentary lack of concentration that caused a death; for instance, if the driver was to glance away to talk to a passenger or look at their mobile phone.

Punishments can include a mandatory disqualification, extended retest and unlimited fine, or a 5 years prison sentence.

If you are charged with causing death by careless driving, you should seek legal advice.

Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs

This charge relates to causing a death under the definition of driving without due care and attention or without consideration for other road users, whilst also relating to the definitions of being unfit to drive through drink or drugs, or being over the prescribed legal limit of alcohol.

This charge can also be brought if in the resultant 18 hours after the death you refuse to give a sample of breath, blood or urine, or if you were physically unable, at the time, to consent to a sample of blood being taken and in future refuse, without reason, for the sample’s analysis by a laboratory.

The potential punishment for this charge is imprisonment up to a maximum of a 14 year prison sentence, as well as a mandatory 2 years’ disqualification, 3-11 penalty points and an extended retest.

Unlicensed, disqualified and uninsured drivers

There doesn’t have to be any fault in the standard of driving when the death was caused for this charge to be brought, only the fact that the driver was not lawfully able to drive, through either the lack of a licence or insurance, or disqualification, at the time of the death.

The maximum punishment for this charge is a 2 year prison sentence, with a mandatory disqualification for 12 months, extended retest and 3-11 penalty points.

It is recommended that you engage a solicitor to aid your defence should you be charged with causing death by driving as an unlicensed, disqualified and uninsured drivers.

Careless driving penalty codes & points

Penalty codes for the careless driving offences begin with the letters CD, ranging from CD10 (Driving without due care and attention) to CD90 (Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or unninsured drivers).

Being convicted of careless driving will see penalty points ranging from 3-9 added on to your licence – however, if you are convicted of any of the careless driving related offences where death is caused, the points endorsed range from 3-11.

Driver alertness course

If you are caught committing a comparatively less serious careless driving offence, such as driving without due care and attention, the police may offer you the chance to take a driver alertness course. If you choose to take this course, you can be spared prosecution, as well as any fine or penalty points you would have received.

You will need to pay a fee upfront to take part in the course, likely to be in excess of £100, and you must pass the course – this will require you to attend all sessions and complete all paperwork, as well as demonstrating a willingness to improve your driving and contribute to the course.

Failure to pass the course will see you referred back to the police, who will most likely prosecute you.

Not all police forces operate this scheme – however, many forces have picked it up since initial trials were conducted in 2009-2010. The scheme is also open to volunteers who have committed no offence, but who wish to take steps to improve their driving.

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