Careless Driving arises where a person drives without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. This is a very common charge which appears in regularly in both the Justice of the Peace Court and Sheriff Court. The charge does however appear more often in the Justice of the Peace Court than the Sheriff Court. There is a wealth of case law relating to careless driving and it is important a lawyer who understands this area fully is instructed.
A conviction for careless driving carries a fine and obligatory penalty points of between 3 and 9 points. The Court also has the power to disqualify on a discretionary basis. Sentences in relation to careless driving will depend on the gravity of the offence and whether the incident was isolated or prolonged, deliberate, or accidental. If an accident has occurred, the sentence should reflect the degree of culpability and not the consequences of the driving.
Careless Driving (Section 3 Road Traffic Act 1988)
Careless driving is defined as follows: If a person drives a motor vehicle or mechanically propelled vehicle on a public road or place “without due care and attention” or “without reasonable consideration for other road users” he is guilty of the offence of careless driving. This is the test applied by the court in all cases, and to all drivers irrespective of their experience. In short, a contravention of careless driving arises only if the standard of driving falls below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver in all the circumstances. It is not necessary that a collision or accident has to occur as a consequence of the careless driving. Where an accident has occurred, it also does not necessarily follow that the driver is guilty of careless driving. It is important to note that driving without due care and attention does not require any degree of inconvenience to have been caused to any other road user. However, where a charge of careless driving specifically refers to inconsiderate driving it will be necessary to show that there has been some form of inconvenience to another road user.
Examples of Careless Driving
Careless driving can arise in several ways, from simple mistakes and inattention to errors in judgement and lack of concentration. It may be inadvertent and isolated or deliberate and a prolonged course of driving. Driving which is poor or objectionable can give rise to charges of careless driving. This could include speeding, tailgating, undertaking, or emerging from a junction into the path of another vehicle. Collisions with other road users and even minor scrapes and bumps in car parks can constitute careless driving as can failing to signal and splashing pedestrians by driving through puddles.
Causing Death by Careless Driving
Where death is caused by Careless Driving the courts can impose a prison sentence of up to 5 years, together with a fine of £5000 and a minimum period of disqualification of 12 months. Significantly increased penalties apply where the death is caused by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
Defences to Careless Driving
It is for the prosecution to prove that the driving took place and that it fell below the required standard. In deciding whether the offence has been committed consideration must be given to the defence and any explanation given by the accused or witness. The accused may simply deny that the incident happened or that they have been wrongly identified. Alternatively, they might claim that the incident has been exaggerated and that his driving did not fall below the standard of a careful and competent driver. If they accept that an incident took place a defence or special reasons can still be advances which explain why they drove as they did. It might be a defence that they were faced with an unexpected event or mechanical breakdown. Since consideration must be given to all the circumstances, defences might also arise from an emergency, necessity or even duress.
In some cases, the court can conclude that while the offence has been committed, in all the circumstances, there are however special reasons not to endorse the licence with any penalty points. In cases where the driver accepts that his driving has fallen below the required standard it is possible to agree a version of events with the prosecution in order to limit the penalties that will be imposed. If you have been charged in relation to careless driving within the Highlands and Islands, contact our office for advice on your options in defending this charge.