Careless driving is defined as the act of driving a vehicle on a road without due care and attention or without consideration for other persons on or around that road. The penalties for careless driving convictions, which include penalty points, fines, custodial sentences and disqualification periods, will be determined by the seriousness of the offence and if any fatalities were involved (‘death by careless driving’).
What is classed as careless driving?
Careless driving is extremely broad in scope. Examples of the offence could include:
- Pulling out from a junction into the immediate path of oncoming traffic
- Colliding with another vehicle
- Using a satnav system or mobile phone while driving
- Middle lane ‘hogging’
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Driving too close to another vehicle
- Driving through a red light
- Colliding with a pedestrian
- Overtaking on the inside
What happens if you are accused of careless driving?
If you are stopped by the police for careless driving, you will be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice ‘on the spot’.
Alternatively, if you have been caught on camera or someone has reported you for careless driving, the police have 14 days to issue you with a Notice of Intended Prosecution.
However the charge of careless driving arises, you will be expected to respond within 28 days, including providing your driver information. Failure to respond will result in a fine of up to £1,000 and additional penalty points may be added to your driving licence.
Once you have responded, your fine or penalty points will be issued. You now have 28 days to pay any fine, or reject the offer of fine and points and request that your case be heard in court.
It is always recommended that you seek legal advice, should you be accused of careless driving. A solicitor will assist you through the whole process, communicating on your behalf and representing you in court, if necessary.
For careless driving offences that are seen as less serious, you may be asked to take a driver alertness course instead of facing prosecution, a fine or incurring penalty points on your licence.
The driver alertness course carries an upfront fee, generally over £100, and it is required that you pass the course and show your willingness to improve your driving.
Should you fail the course, you may still face prosecution, a fine or penalty points.
Defending a charge of careless driving
If your case proceeds to court, the prosecution will be looking to establish that the manner in which you are accused to have been driving fell below the standard driving expected of a competent and careful driver. If you decide to plead not guilty to a charge of careless driving, you will need to present an appropriate defence.
Reasons for pleading not guilty could include:
- You claim that the standard of your driving was not below the required standard. The strength of this defence will rest with the circumstances that led to you being charged. For instance, were you caught on camera excessively speeding or did a member of the public report you for speeding and therefore it is your word against theirs?
- A mechanical fault in your vehicle detrimentally affected your driving. This defence may be used as long as you did not know the fault was present before the offence occurred. In this situation, the police may be required to prove that you were aware of such a fault.
- Your careless driving was necessary due to an emergency situation. An example of this would be where you were forced to mount the pavement to avoid a child running out into the road.
- You were escaping assault by a third party. Who is this third party? Can they be called on in court? Why were they chasing you? All of these details and more will be required to use this defence.
- Where medical reasons hampered your control of the vehicle. (e.g. epileptic fit). This defence may be used where you were not aware of a medical condition that could lead to careless driving, or you have a medical condition that has been registered with the DVLA but that would not usually cause affect your driving.
- Taking part in an authorised motoring event. The strength of this defence rests on providing evidence of the existence of the event, that it was authorised and that you participated in it officially.
- That you were reasonably distracted by an external or internal factor. An external distraction could be a bird flying into your windscreen. An internal distraction could be a passenger. The strength of this defence lies with the term ‘reasonably’ and whether you can prove that the distraction was out of your control.
When making its decision, the court will consider factors such as:
- the seriousness of the offence (e.g. whether anyone was injured)
- whether the offence was committed while you were on bail
- whether you already have penalty points on your licence and the offences that led to those points
- whether you complied with police and court instructions
- poor weather conditions
- your health
Careless Driving Offences
As a guide, offences under the careless driving category and their related penalty points, fines and prison sentences are as follows:
- Driving without due care and attention (CD10) – 3 to 9 penalty points on your driving record for 4 years from the date of the offence and a fine of up to £5,000
Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users (CD20) – 3 to 9 penalty points on your driving record for 4 years from the date of the offence and a fine of up to £5,000
- Driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users (CD30) – 3 to 9 penalty points on your driving record for 4 years from the date of the offence and a fine of up to £5,000
- Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink (CD40) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 11 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
- Causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs (CD50) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 11 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
- Causing death by careless driving with alcohol level above the limit (CD60) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 11 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
- Causing death by careless driving then failing to supply a specimen for alcohol analysis (CD70) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 11 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
- Causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving (CD80) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 4 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
- Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers (CD90) – 3 to 11 penalty points on your driving record for 4 years from the date of your conviction, unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years
If you collect 12 penalty points over a period of 3 years, you may be disqualified from driving and forced to give up your licence.
Other consequences of being convicted of a driving offence
When you are convicted of a careless driving offence, the consequences can go beyond penalty points and a fine:
Retaking your Driving Test
You may be required to give up your driving licence and re-take all parts of your driving test.
If you drive for work, either to commute or where your job role requires you to provide a driving service, penalty points or a driving ban will have a negative effect.
Many employment contracts state that criminal conviction, such as a driving offence, could result in dismissal.
Professions which are regulated by professional bodies (such as doctors, lawyers and accountants) generally insist that members do not have a criminal conviction. A careless driving conviction could result in loss of registration and, as a knock-on effect, dismissal.
Equally, a driving conviction must be revealed to any prospective employer too.
With penalty points on your licence, your car insurance will increase.
How legal advice can help
If you are accused of careless driving, take legal advice to consider your options to challenge the charge and minimise the implications of any penalties.