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Careless Driving - the basics

5 January 2022
Bad Driving

The Law of Careless Driving Explained

The offence of driving without due care and attention is contained in section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1998 (known as RTA 1988).  It is a summary only offence. This means it is always dealt with at the magistrates' court.

What does careless driving uder the Road Traffic Act 1988 actually mean?

For a person to be guilty of careless driving (or driving without due care and attention as it sometimes called) the law says that the person must have been below the standard of a reasonable and careful driver. There is no definition of what might be expected of a 'reasonable and careful driver' but the following types of behaviour may constitute careless driving:

  • tailgating another vehicle

  • pulling out in front of a vehicle, creating a risk of collision

  • driving inappropriately fast according to the road conditions

  • handling a gadget such as a smartphone, even if it is not being used

  • otherwise not paying attention to the road

Inconsiderate Driving

A similar offence is inconsiderate driving, which includes driving which unreasonably upsets other road users, because it is particularly aggressive or selfish. If a car purposely and repeatedly tailgates, flashes or beeps its horn at another driver, then the charge of inconsiderate driving could be made out.

What are the defences to careless driving?

There are certain defences available to people charged with this offence. If you think one applies to you then it is probably a good idea to speak to a specialist careless driving solicitor.

1. Necessity

2. Mechanical fault

3. Duress - escaping a threat

4. A genuine distraction either in or out of the vehicle

5. Denial that the driving was below the required standard.

Careless driving - what are the likely penalties?

Various penalties exist for careless driving and inconsiderate driving. A court must endorse the licence with 3-9 points OR give a disqualification of a length to be decided by the court, a fine will also usually accompany the licence penalty.

A court, may, with skilful persuasion consider a very short ban as a punishment if points would result in a totting up ban of 6 months or more.

A court should only consider the maximum number of points or a long ban if there has been a lot of damage, or if there have been any other aggravating features, such as other offences committed at the same time. The court may take into account the defendant's previous driving record, and the effect of a ban on the defendant.

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