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Forrest Williams are specialist careless driving solicitors.  If you have been charged with this offence, call our expert team of careless driving solicitors today on 01623 397200.


What legislation covers this offence?

Careless driving (also known as Driving Without Due Care & Attention) is covered by Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA)1988.


What is meant by ‘careless driving’?

In terms of the legislation, a person drives carelessly when:-

  • the defendant’s driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver (see Section 3ZA(2) of the RTA1988).

In order to determine what is to be expected of a competent and careful driver, the court must take into account the circumstances of which the driver could have been expected to be aware and also any circumstances shown to have been within the driver’s knowledge.

In addition, guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states:-

“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.”

What types of behaviour could result in a charge of careless driving?

Examples of careless driving, from court cases, are as follows:-

  • 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 (note that this is an offence itself under Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003).  If this is the only relevant aspect of the case it is more appropriate to use the specific offence;
  • selecting and lighting a cigarette or similar when the driver was avoidably distracted by that use.

It should be noted that some of the above also fall within the examples of dangerous driving.


How is the offence seriousness determined?

First, the nature of the activity is established.

The magistrates’ sentencing guidelines indicate that the offence is given either a low, medium or high rating, depending on its seriousness. These are as follows:-

  1. Low – Momentary lapse of concentration or misjudgement at low speed;
  2. Medium – Loss of control due to speed, mishandling or insufficient attention to road conditions, or carelessly turning right across on-coming traffic; and
  3. High – Overtaking manoeuvre at speed resulting in collision of vehicles, or driving bordering on the dangerous

Culpability and harm are then established, together with aggravating and mitigating factors, as follows.

Factors indicating higher culpability:-

  1. Excessive speed
  2. Carrying out other tasks while
  3. Carrying passengers or heavy load
  4. Tiredness

Factors indicating lower culpability:-

  1. Minor risk
  2. Inexperience of driver
  3. Sudden change in road or weather conditions

Factors indicating greater degree of harm:-

  1. Injury to others
  2. Damage to other vehicles or property
  3. High level of traffic or pedestrians in vicinity
  4. Location e.g. near school when children are likely to be present

Offender mitigation is then taken into account, i.e. relevant personal circumstances and evidence of remorse.


What sentencing powers do the courts have for this offence?

This offence is tried in the magistrates’ court.

The sentencing options include a fine and the endorsement of 3 to 9 penalty points, depending on the seriousness of the offence. The court also has the power to impose a discretionary disqualification.


If you have been charged with careless driving, contact our specialist careless driving solicitors today on 01623 397200 for free initial advice.


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