In the jargon, you’re guilty of a careless driving offence if you drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place.
- Driving without due care and attention means driving in a way that falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
- Driving without reasonable consideration for other persons requires them to be inconvenienced by your driving.
You can expect a Fixed Penalty Notice for many careless driving offences but in more serious cases you’ll be summonsed to appear in court.
- The more serious offence of dangerous driving will always be dealt with by a court appearance.
- If a case goes to court the maximum penalty is £5,000, 3 to 9 points on your licence and a discretionary disqualification.
- National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) guidance is that lower level careless driving offences are considered for a fixed penalty with the offender being offered driver education in most cases.
What is careless driving?
There’s no standard list of behaviours or poor manoeuvres but any minor breach of the Highway Code could be considered to be an offence:
- Not giving way at a junction
- Overtaking and forcing your way into a queue of traffic
- Using the wrong lane at a roundabout
- Ignoring a lane closed sign and forcing your way into an orderly queue
- Lane hogging
- Inappropriate speed
- Overtaking on the inside
- Wheel spins
- Hand brake turns
- Operating a satnav or reading a map while driving
- Eating or drinking at the wheel
- Lane hopping or weaving
- Overtaking and causing an approaching vehicle or overtaken vehicle to brake
- Smoking and driving
How will you be dealt with?
There are five different ways that the police can deal with a careless driving offence depending on the severity and circumstances:
- Summons – plead guilty and accept the fine or plead not guilty and have the case heard in Court.
- Summons with an offer of educational training – accept and attend the course or refuse the course and request a hearing.
- Fixed penalty – accept the penalty or request a summons and either plead guilty and accept the court fine or not guilty and have the case heard in Court.
- Fixed penalty with an offer of educational training – accept the penalty or accept and attend the course. If you refuse or fail to complete the course and don't accept the penalty, you’ll be summonsed and can either plead guilty and accept the court fine or not guilty and have the case heard in the Magistrates Court.
- A warning and no further action
Fixed penalty and/or educational training can be offered in situations of officer-observed, low level careless, aggressive and inconsiderate driving where other drivers are not unduly affected.
The officer at the roadside can’t himself offer a course. Back office staff will consider the case and check the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) data base – if you've already completed a course you are ineligible for another course anywhere and for any offence within 3 years of the original offence.
When to expect a summons
You can still expect a summons for aggressive driving where other drivers are endangered. These may be officer observed, witnessed or involve collisions and include:
- Fast overtakes and lane hopping or weaving with other drivers having to evade
- Pulling out in front of another moving vehicle that needs to brake
- Overtaking and causing the approaching vehicle to brake or take evading action or pulling in causing the overtaken vehicle to brake or swerve
- Taking the wrong lane at roundabout causing another vehicle on the roundabout to brake or swerve
- Staying in lane two or three with vehicles behind being held up or forced to pass on the nearside
28 February 2017