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Careless Driving

Careless Driving

Careless driving involves not observing the minimum standard of due care and attention when deriving a vehicle in the UK. It encompasses a number of acts that are highlighted in the Road Traffic Act 1988. 

Drivers who are found guilty of careless driving can receive penalty points, fines as well as a disqualification from driving in more serious cases. When their driving was careless enough to cause the death of another individual, then this offence can also be subject to imprisonment.

Knowing how certain behaviours are defined in the applicable laws is useful when stopped by the police. If you were fined for careless driving while in the UK and are unsure of how to proceed further, you can reach out to our team of driving offence solicitors for complete legal advice on how you can act on the penalty or, if applicable, the disqualification.

In this article, we briefly answer some of the most important issues concerning driving without due attention in the UK. You can always contact one of our solicitors for more personalized answers. 

What is the difference between careless and dangerous driving?

Careless driving mainly involves actions that are related to how the driver acts whilst operating the vehicle on the road, as opposed to dangerous driving when the actions are also related to the state in which the driver finds himself (for example, enraged or inebriated, amongst others).

Our motoring solicitors present some examples of careless driving below:

  • driving too close to another vehicle; 
  • ignoring a red light;
  • turning in front of another vehicle;
  • overtaking on the inside
  • flashing lights to force other drivers out of one’s way;
  • misusing lanes;
  • unnecessary braking as well as unneeded slow driving.

By contrast, a driver who is racing, speeding or driving aggressively is one that is subject to a different offence, the one involving dangerous driving.

Drivers who are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are prosecuted accordingly and one of our drink driving solicitors in London can help you if you have been accused of this. This is an altogether different offence compared to careless driving and specialized assistance is required. 

Failing to conform to a traffic sign is a different offence, however, it is often appropriate for both of these acts to be prosecuted together, as the result of the same driving incident. However, where the prosecutor issues a conviction for careless driving, the lesser offence or failing to conform to a traffic sign is to be preserved until the guilty party has had the chance to pursue the reversal of the conviction.

difference between careless and dangerous driving

What penalty points can be awarded for careless driving?

Understanding the road traffic rules, as well as the applicable penalties for offences, is important for drivers in the UK. Along with this basic understanding, proper guidance offered by our team can be of great help when stopped by the police and accused of a certain offence, such as careless driving.

Our driving offence solicitors list the possible penalties for offences that fall under careless driving:

  • 3 to 9 penalty points: driving without due care and attention and/or without reasonable consideration for other road users;
  • 3 to 11 points: causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving;
  • 3 to 11 penalty points: causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink or drugs;
  • 5,000 £ fine: this is a maximum fine value that can apply in some careless driving cases.

The penalty points and fines for dangerous driving can be different. As seen above, there is a distinction between causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink. Our drink drive solicitor in London is able to help you if you fall in the latter. It is also useful to know that, according to the legal guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service, the driver’s skills or lacks thereof, as well as previous convictions, are not relevant when establishing carelessness or dangerous driving.  

We invite you to watch the following video on careless driving in the UK:

Driving disqualifications are also possible in case of careless driving. In serious injury cases as well as in those traffic collisions that result in a fatality, the vehicle can be seized.

Sentencing guide for careless driving

Our driving solicitors present below part of the sentencing process in case of careless driving as set forth by the Magistrates Court.

  • Step 1: the category of the offence is established; three possibilities exist – higher culpability and greater harm (1), higher culpability and lesser harm or lower culpability and greater harm (2) lower culpability and lesser harm (3);
  • Step 2: determining the starting point and the category range (according to the Band A, B, or C fine);
  • Step 3: consider the factors that could reduce the sentence, such as assisting the prosecution;
  • Step 4: applying the potential reductions for a guilty plea;
  • Steps 5 and 6: apply the totality principle (establish a sentence that is just and proportionate with the overall offending behaviour) and consider whether to make other ancillary orders (these are orders that are in connection with the forfeiture, other than the forfeiture order; included here is disqualification from driving).

The main factors that increase the seriousness of the careless driving offence are the following:

  • Statutory: previous convictions according to the nature of the offence and its relevance for the offence that is being taken into consideration in the present; whether or not the present offence was committed whilst on bail;
  • Others: failure to comply with the orders, contravening a red signal at a level crossing and whether or not the offence was committed post-sentence supervision.

The factors that reduce the seriousness of the offence include remorse, good character or exemplary conduct and whether or not the individual has no previous convictions or no relevant or recent convictions. A reduction is also offered according to section 74 of the Sentencing Code when the offender offers assistance to the prosecutor or investigator. The Court has the possibility to issue ancillary orders in appropriate cases. These are taken into consideration when the overall penalty needs to be commensurate with the offence’s seriousness.

An important principle followed in sentencing driving offences, as well as other types of offences, is the Equal Treatment Bench Book, which offers guidance on how the parties that issue the sentence should take into account the fairness of the court proceedings.

When sentencing a case involving careless driving, the prosecutor and investigator will take into account whether or not the acts were on the border between dangerous and careless driving.

In most cases, careless driving proceedings must be brought to court within six months after the prosecutor has received sufficient information to warrant the proceedings. They may not be brought more than three years after the offence took place.

Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving

Careless driving cases are understandably aggravated when they result in the death of an individual. The maximum sentence for causing death by this type of driving is set at 5 years imprisonment, however, sentence ranges are lower for causing death by careless driving compared to causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence, a case in which the maximum sentence is 14 years of imprisonment.

Like in the case of simple careless driving (without victims), the following are taken into account when determining the sentence:

  1. Offering assistance at the scene: in those cases in which the offender is able to intervene in a positive manner and offer proper assistance to the victims at the scene of the collision, his or her acts can be considered personal mitigation; it is useful to point out that the offender may not be physically able to intervene if he or she is personally injured;
  2. Good driving record: if the offender had been an exemplary driver up to the event, then the court can take into account this; however, it should be noted that this does not apply ex officio for all members of the society; the judges may decide to use this mitigating factor when the offender was an ambulance driver, a taxi driver or a professional driver that has performed his duty with the utmost care for years before the accident; this factor is even more important when the offender was driving on public duty, for example, if he is a police officer and at the date of the accident was driving to respond to an emergency;
  3. Remorse: it can be deemed personal mitigation, although any individual who has caused death by careless driving is expected to feel remorse; the Court is the one to decide if it will use this for the purpose of mitigation or not.

In all careless driving cases, those without victims and those that caused death, the prosecutors will take into account the aggravating and the mitigating factors that are both general as well as specific. Our team of driving solicitors can help you with proper court representation if you are subject to such a sentence.

The mutual recognition of driving disqualifications

The UK and Ireland signed an agreement for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications in 2015 that came into force in 2017. This means that driving disqualifications can be recognised between the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland and the law also provides information on the sanctions that can be imposed in Ireland on a UK resident and in the UK on an Irish resident.

The offences that are recognised are communicated to the appropriate authorities in the UK or Ireland, respectively, so that they may be given effect in the concerned jurisdiction. The categories of driver behaviour that are recognised under this Act are the following:

  • reckless/dangerous driving (with or without serious risk, injury or death);
  • driving under the influence or other substances;
  • speeding;
  • driving whilst disqualified, refusing to submit to an alcohol and/or drug test.

An offence deriving from conduct as listed above is a disqualification under the Agreement even if the offence is not one that is recognised in the UK. Penalty points disqualifications are not subject to this Act.

Our team of driving solicitors can provide you with more information about the categories of offences that are recognised between Ireland and the UK. The following steps are followed when the UK authorities are notified of a U K resident (with a Great Britain or Northern Ireland driver’s license) who has been accused of a recognised offence:

  1. the Irish Road Safety Authority (RSA) sends a notice to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)/Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) concerning a disqualified driver;
  2. the DVLA/DVA is the one to send a notice to the driver, thus informing the individual that the disqualification will apply in the UK 21 days after the day on which the notice is issued.
  3. the UK driver can appeal this decision to the magistrate’s court (foe England and Wales residents), the sheriff’s court (for Scottish residents) or the court of summary jurisdiction (for Northern Ireland residents); the appeal can only be against the disqualification that is applied in the YK and the UK court cannot overturn or change the Irish court’s decision to disqualify;
  4. the driver will inform the DVLA/DVA if an appeal has been made; the DVLA is the one that will defend the decision;
  5. if the appeal rules that the disqualification will not apply in the UK, then the UK will properly inform the Irish authorities (the DVLA/DVA will inform the RSA).

The UK court cannot decide the length of the disqualification and can only consider whether or not the relevant sections are satisfied and should apply (sections 56 and 57 of the Crime International Cooperation Act or CICA are relevant in this case).

Drivers disqualified in the UK after the recognition of an Irish disqualification who continue to drive in the UK commit the offence to drive whilst disqualified under the Road Traffic Act, section 103.

How can our driving solicitors assist you?

The Crown Prosecution Service is the one to evaluate your case and determine if your offence is considered careless or dangerous driving. As previously states, the injury or death of a person in the collision is an aggravating factor, however, this alone does not turn careless driving into dangerous driving. According to the Service, causation is an important factor when discussing manslaughter cases and the manner in which the defendant was driving (be it careless or dangerous) as this will be linked to the cause of death. Our team of driving solicitors can explain causation in more detail and can, when needed, help represent you in court.

Careless driving has an impact not only on the driver, but also the passengers and other road users, according to each particular case. The law includes offences related to driving without due care or careful consideration for other individuals particularly for this purpose. The careless driving offence covers those behaviours that fall under the category of poor driving and these are varied, as seen in this article (from failing to look properly to breaking suddenly without reason).

According to the Motoring Offence Statistics for Northern Ireland, during May 2020 and April 2021 there were 46,759 motoring offences, a decrease of 2% compared to the previous 12 months. Most of these were related to speeding (8,835). According to the same report, 2,943 men and 770 women were found guilty of careless driving and out of these, most were in the 30-49 years category, followed by the 18029 age group. The total number of dangerous driving cases in Northern Ireland during the same 12-month period was 1,724.

If you were involved in careless driving, it is advisable to reach out to a solicitor as soon as possible after the incident. Contact our motoring solicitors and find out more about careless driving and the applicable penalties in the UK.