This offence is also known as driving without due care and attention and you commit this offence if the standard of your driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. The problem is that many people do not actually know what that means.
Firstly a decision must be made as to what would have been expected of a careful and competent driver in all of the circumstances that the driver could be expected to know but also in the circumstances he did know about.
Then when considering the standard of driving the test is objective and applies when the action was deliberate or whether it was a result of inexperience, inadvertence or incompetence.
It still isn’t clear from the law what actions could come under this offence but somewhat helpfully there are some cases which have found the following to be examples of careless driving:
- Tailgating i.e. driving too close to the vehicle in front;
- Driving through a red light accidently;
- Pulling out in front of someone;
- Tuning a radio; and
- Being avoidably distracted by something else e.g. lighting a cigarette.
These are not the only things that can be considered as careless driving but merely a list of some. Careless driving could also encompass using a mobile phone whilst driving but if this is the only action then it is usual for that specific offence to be used.
If you are found guilty of careless driving the maximum punishment is a fine but also a Court must either give you penalty points (between 3 and 9) or impose a disqualification period and/or until a driving test is passed.
Dangerous driving is somewhat similar to careless driving but is in fact more serious. The offence is committed where the standard of driving falls well below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver and, it would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that driving in that manner would be dangerous.
Again there is no specific definition of what type of driving this encompasses but for the driving to be dangerous both parts of the above definition must be satisfied. There is again no definition for what actions constitute driving falling far below the standard expected but there is a definition for dangerous under the legislation. Dangerous refers to driving that could lead to personal injury or serious damage to property.
There is some further guidance in the legislation that states that the offence can be committed if it would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.
It is also evident from the case law that skill or lack of skill is not a relevant consideration when deciding whether or not the driving was dangerous.
Some examples of things that have been categorised as dangerous driving are:
- Ignoring traffic lights and/or road signals;
- Overtaking dangerously;
- Driving when unfit; and
- Driving when avoidably and dangerously distracted e.g. reading or looking at a map, talking to and looking at a passenger.
Dangerous driving is a more serious offence and as such the potential penalties are higher. These matters can be heard in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. If it is heard in Crown Court the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. Wherever the case is heard if found guilty a minimum disqualification of 1 year plus a requirement for an extended retest will be imposed. There is a potential to make a special reasons application for not imposing such a ban.