Careless driving is more properly described as driving without due care and attendion. The same section also creates the offence of driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. The essential difference between the two offences under section 3 of the RTA 1988 is that in cases of careless driving the prosecution need not show that any other person was inconvenienced. In cases of inconsiderate driving, there must be evidence that some other user of the road or public place was actually inconvenienced
To prove an offence under section 3 the prosecutor needs to show the defendants driving fell below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. In determining what is to be expected of a competent and careful driver, the prosecutor must take into account not only the circumstances of which the driver could be expected to be aware, but also any circumstances shown to have been within the drivers knowledge. The test of whether the standard of driving has fallen below the required standard is objective. It applies both when the manner of driving in question is deliberate and when it occurs as a result of incompetence, inadvertence or inexperience.
The maximum penalty is a level 5 fine. The court must also either endorse the drivers licence with between 3 and 9 penalty points (unless there are “special reasons” not to do so), or impose disqualification for a fixed period and/or until a driving test has been passed.
It may appear to some that what a prosecutor needs to prove in a due care case is so low as to be unfair. If a collision has occurred but there is no evidence of any mechanical defect, illness of the driver, or other explanation to account for why the collision happened then a charge of careless driving may be brought provided the evidence is capable of proving how an incident occurred (e.g. a collision), the case can be put on the basis that there is a very strong inference that the defendant was driving below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. In the absence of any explanation by the defendant as to the cause of the collision, a court may infer that the offence was committed, but where the defendant does provide an explanation for the collision, however unlikely, it is possible to avoid a summons and/or conviction.
There are decided cases that provide some guidance as to the driving that courts will regard as careless or inconsiderate and the following examples are typical of what are likely to be regarded as careless driving:
- overtaking on the inside;
- driving inappropriately close to another vehicle;
- inadvertently driving through a red light;
- emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle;
- tuning a car radio;
- when the driver was avoidably distracted by this action;
- using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment when the driver was avoidably distracted by that use (this is an offence itself and it will often be more appropriate to use the specific offence;
- selecting and lighting a cigarette or similar when the driver was avoidably distracted by that use.
These are only examples and it ought to be noted that these could also be part of the facts leading to an allegation of dangerous driving. The way in which a person can be caught by the offence of careless driving are such that expert advice ought to be taken as early as possible. Even if you know you are pleading guilty there may be good reason to take our advice on how to enter the plea and what to rely upon in mitigation. There may be an opportunity to argue special reasons to avoid an endorsement but we cannot help you unless you are in touch with us. Prior to contacting us you might like to check whether your insurance policy (driving or home) will cover the cost if this is an issue for you.
Contact Daniel Bonich to discuss your needs and agree a fee structure to deal with this.