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Driving without due care and attention ( Careless Driving )

Definition - Careless Driving

This offence is committed when the standard of driving falls below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver. Circumstances taken into account include those shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused as well as those of which s/he could have been expected to be aware. The standard is a notional one in that many motorists probably commit some minor driving error each time they take to the road. However, in a prosecution the focus is solely on the driving of the accused and whether it can be said that his / her driving fell below that of the competent and careful driver (even if only momentarily). The related offence of driving without reasonable consideration occurs when one motorist’s driving inconveniences another. This offence is used to cater for very minor matters such as jumping a queue or splashing a pedestrian by driving through a puddle, for example.


Careless driving offences can take many forms. Typically motorists who are in a minor scrape, such as knocking the wing mirror of another vehicle, through to more serious cases such as coming off the road altogether, might find themselves charged with this offence. If an accused pleads, ‘not guilty’, then the Crown will try to prove that the standard of driving fell below that of the competent and careful driver. The defence, on the other hand, is likely to contend that it did not. Thus, there is likely to be a dispute as to the facts. It should be noted that simply showing that another driver was at fault does not amount to a defence to the charge.

Not Guilty Pleas

If a Defendant pleads, ‘not guilty’, there will be a trial in the Magistrates’ court. The prosecution case will be prepared by the police and presented in court by lawyers for the CPS. They will not proceed with a case unless they believe they are likely to secure a conviction. Unless the defence also instructs a lawyer there will most definitely be an inequality of arms. This does not mean that one cannot defend oneself only that one’s chances of an acquittal will be markedly less unless the Defendant fully understands the relevant law and procedure as well as how best to represent him / herself in court.


If convicted the accused can expect to have between 3-9 penalty points endorsed on his / her driving licence as well to be fined. The range of penalty points is to take account of the wide variation in terms of seriousness covered by this offence. In a grave case the court may simply disqualify instead of endorsing points. Of course, if points are endorsed they will be added to any other relevant points on the accused’s driving record. If the total reaches 12 or more then a penalty points disqualification would normally be imposed.

Depending on a range of factors including the gravity of the offence, whether it was admitted or denied, the driving record of the accused and so on the Defendant could well face loss of licence. So, if you are accused of this offence you may wish to improve your prospects of saving your licence by obtaining expert advice to guide you all the way from the start of the prosecution and how to plead all the way through to preparing for the court hearing itself.

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You are probably ‘Guilty’ of careless driving more often than you realise

Definition: S3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 creates the offence of driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration also known as careless driving.  A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

A court must have regard not only to the circumstances of which the competent and careful driver could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.  The related allegation of driving without reasonable consideration for others is made out in circumstances in which others are inconvenienced by the driving of the accused.  The latter is, therefore, an offence of lesser gravity.

Clear?  Understanding legal jargon such as is found in statutes and legal textbooks can be challenging even for lawyers never mind the lay public.  With this in mind, I shall try to put the preceding paragraph into context.

The Law and Procedure

Driving without due care and attention is a summary offence. This means that it can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Courts. Such trials are usually heard by a tribunal consisting of 3 lay magistrates. The court clerk’s role includes advising the lay bench on the law and procedure. However, judgement as to the facts is for the Magistrates alone. Therefore, after hearing evidence in a case it is they who will determine whether the Accused is ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.

The Reality of Driving without Due care

In an allegation of driving without due care the court will assess the standard of the driving by reference to the hypothetical ‘competent and careful’ driver. A strict application of the law to the way many of us sometimes drive could mean that we, even if momentarily, fall foul of the required standard of driving. How many of us, for example, cross our arms whilst turning the steering wheel or eat something as we drive along happily dividing our attention between a combination of the following – driving, eating, listening to the radio and arguing with our partners?

In practice, of course, the poor driving habits that we sometimes practice will not usually come to the attention of the police unless there has been an accident or some other circumstance to bring it to their attention. However, strictly speaking many of us probably, at some point on journeys, do sometimes commit the offence without us or anyone else realising we have done so!

The Penalty

A court will usually fine a Defendant (the fine is, in theory, unlimited although in practice it will be fixed by reference to the gravity of the particular offence combined with the Defendant’s ability to pay), as well as endorse his driving license with 3 to 9 penalty points. There is a power to disqualify from driving although if that happens penalty points will not be endorsed upon the licence as well. Of course, the Defendant will very probably also suffer markedly higher insurance costs when his renewal falls due.

If you would like advice concerning an allegation of driving without due care and attention please contact me.

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