What is Careless Driving?

Careless Driving is the name commonly used to refer to the offence of Driving without Due Care and Attention.

You may also hear some people mistakenly call it 'driving with undue attention'. However, this would mean someone was driving with too much care and attention which, for obvious reasons is not an offence!

In short Careless Driving refers to driving which is of a standard which falls below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.

It is a 'Summary Only' offence which means it can only be dealt with the Magistrates' Court.

It's not as serious as Dangerous Driving which can only be dealt with in the Crown Court. That is when the driving is of a standard which falls far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.

There is also a separate offence of Causing Death by Careless Driving which is obviously more serious and can be dealt with by either the Magistrates' or Crown Court.

Our Derby solicitors can advise you on what to do if you're facing a Careless Driving allegation. Just give us a call on 0330 1330 081 or fill in our contact form. You may also find the information below useful.

They are wide-ranging and vary from 3 penalty points on your licence at the very bottom end of the scale up. At the top end, it's 9 points or even disqualification.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but examples of careless driving include: overtaking on the inside or driving inappropriately close to another vehicle; inadvertent mistakes such as driving through a red light, turning right into the path of an oncoming vehicle, or emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle; or short distractions such as tuning a car radio or programming a sat nav.

It doesn't have to be much to be classed as careless driving. It's often just a momentary negligent error of judgment or a
single negligent manoeuvre, which in reality all of us have probably made at some point. Some of us have just been lucky, in that nothing more serious happened as a result so that we didn't face a careless driving allegation.

If you have received a court summons for careless driving (or driving without due care and attention – as it’s referred to on the summons), you probably need to seek some advice.

Careless driving is different from a lot of motoring offences, in that it is not what is known as a ‘strict liability offence’. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must show that the standard of your driving dropped below that of a careful and competent driver. In reality, this gives the prosecution a very low hurdle to get over. Most people will probably admit that at some point their standard of driving will drop below that of a competent and careful driver. Fortunately for them, if they are not seen and/or lucky enough not to be involved in an incident, there will be no criminal consequences.

Often a prosecution for careless driving will be reliant upon witness testimony and sometimes it can be one driver's word against another's. On other occasions, there may be a collision report or even a mechanical report.

We can advise you on an appropriate plea should you face a summons for careless or inconsiderate driving. We will give you genuine honest advice about the prospects of success of your case should you choose to defend it. Of course the ultimate decision to defend an allegation is yours.

Remember that the question of whether someone has committed an offence of careless driving is a matter of law to be applied to the facts.

If it appears you accept the allegation or that the evidence against you is very strong, we can put forward the best possible mitigation on your behalf, to keep any penalty imposed to an absolute minimum.

Often those who or are facing allegations of careless driving, also facing allegations of failing to stop failing to report after an accident. Of course these allegations make the issue even more serious, and it is even more important to seek legal advice.

It doesn't matter whether your hearing is in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester or further afield. We'll be able to help you.

That's a good question. The law states that the test is an objective one. What that means is that it doesn't matter what the driver him/herself thinks about the standard his/her driving. What matters is what a reasonable person would consider to be reasonable in the circumstances.

The fact that a driver has not long passed his test does not excuse him from driving carelessly (although it may be mitigation).

The driving must be judged as at the time of the incident. Therefore the question is: "were his actions reasonable in the circumstances?". It does not matter that with hindsight, he may have acted differently.

There are a number of defences to careless driving which has been put forward in the past, but very few were successful. Obviously, the usual defence is that the standard of driving did not drop below a careful and competent driver. Here are some less common examples of submitted defences:

  • Falling asleep was not successful because the driver should have stopped when he knew he was tired.
  • Mechanical defects can be successful but evidence of the defect will need to be produced. In addition, the defect must not have been obvious to a careful driver.
  • Sudden loss of visibility may be a defence but only where it is very sudden. A driver who loses his vision should stop driving immediately.
  • Automatism eg. through illness can be a defence, but if the driver knows that he is suffering from an illness likely seriously to affect his control of the car and drives, he is guilty.
  • Necessity or Duress may be successful, but the need or duress must justify the act ie. the way in which the vehicle was driven.

Obviously, it depends what you've done, but it's very common for Careless Driving offences to be accompanied by failing to stop after an accident allegations if the driver has failed to stop and has not reported to a police station.

Similarly, you could face an allegation of failing to provide driver details if you failed to reply to a notice of intended prosecution.