Most of us have a fairly good idea of what careless driving implies. We know we need to pay attention while driving, avoid speeding, honour the right of way, and obey traffic signals. However, if you ever find yourself involved in a road accident claim, whether as a claimant or a defendant, you’ll be surprised to find out that what you know is just the tip of the iceberg. The law regarding careless driving is extensive and covers every aspect of road use.
Do you really need to know all the details of the law governing careless driving? Not necessarily but it does help. Knowing what constitutes careless driving from a legal perspective can help you avoid making those mistakes that could get you convicted.
The Law On Careless Driving
According to Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988), anyone who drives a motor vehicle on a road or other public place without due care or attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road is guilty of careless driving.
In other words, careless driving actually constitutes two main offences:
- Driving without due care and attention and
- Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.
What happens if you’re the defendant facing a claim of careless driving in court? In order to convict you, the claimant would have to prove that you did not exercise the degree of care and attention that would be reasonably expected of any driver in the same circumstances. All drivers are held to the same standard regardless of age, experience or any other factors. All are expected to have the same ‘degree of care and attention’ on the road. There are no exceptions when it comes to careless driving.
An Interesting Aspect Regarding Careless Driving
A driver can be accused of careless driving even if they do not actually cause an accident. Driving in a way that inconveniences other users is sufficient to convict a driver of careless driving. For example, driving through a red light could get a driver convicted of careless driving even if it happened in the dead of night and there were no other vehicles on the road. That’s something that every driver should keep in mind before breaking any road traffic rules.
Examples Of Offences That May Constitute Careless Driving
All of these offences come under the category of careless driving:
- Driving above the speed limit.
- Jumping a red light.
- Reckless driving.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Ignoring traffic signs.
- Misjudging speed or distance.
- Being distracted by something happening inside or outside the vehicle.
- Stopping or starting without care.
- Driving while fatigued.
- Texting or reading while driving.
- Ignoring road signs or warnings from passengers.
- Changing lanes without any indication or care.
- Making a U-turn without prior indication.
- Ignoring indicators from other vehicles.
- Driving too close to another vehicle.
- Reversing without care.
- Overshooting the junction.
- Carelessly crossing or entering a road junction.
- Emerging from a private entrance or minor road without care.
- Driving while unfit, including being injured or experiencing vision or other difficulties.
- Dazzling other drivers by not dipping headlights.
- Staying in the overtaking lane unnecessarily.
What Is The Penalty For Careless Driving?
Careless driving cases can only be heard and decided in the magistrates’ court. Penalties are imposed only after proving beyond that any doubt that the motorist was driving without due care and attention. In other words, the motorists’ driving ‘fell below the standard expected of a competent driver’ as stated in Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Penalties and sentences are based on the consequences of the careless driving and can include any combination of fines, penalty points, mandatory disqualification, retesting, or a prison sentence for causing death by careless driving.
If you are caught texting while driving or committing a relatively minor careless driving offence, you may be given the option to take a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme course. This is only if your careless driving did not result in an accident. Agreeing to take the course might be your best recourse. If you choose not to, you open yourself to further prosecution and could end up paying a hefty fine in addition to getting penalty points.
Driving without a licence or insurance also constitutes careless driving even if there is no fault in the standard of driving. In this case, you would be convicted and penalised only because of the fact that you’re not legally allowed to drive without a licence and insurance.
Death By Careless Driving
Causing death by careless and inconsiderate driving is considered a serious offence. If your careless driving results in a death, the charges will, as you would expect, be more severe. The penalty includes up to 5 years in prison and being banned from driving for at least 1 year.
Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs is even more serious and attracts a more severe punishment. The potential punishment for anyone found guilty of this offence could include an unlimited fine, and up to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment.
If you are charged with causing death by careless driving, you should seek professional legal advice.