Careless driving

Also known as driving without due care and attention

Careless driving is now a fixed penalty offence (£100 and 3 points) giving the police more flexibility when dealing with less serious cases

Careless driving is now a fixed penalty offence (£100 and 3 points) giving the police more flexibility when dealing with less serious cases

In the legal jargon, you are 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, while driving without reasonable consideration for other persons requires those persons to be inconvenienced by your driving.

Careless driving is not a new offence - it was created by the Road Traffic Act 1988 - but from 16 August 2013 it became a fixed penalty offence (£100 and 3 points) giving the police more flexibility when dealing with less serious examples of careless driving.  The police also now have the option of offering educational training as an alternative to licence endorsement.

A fixed penalty notice will not be applied in all cases of careless driving; in more serious cases offenders will still be summonsed to appear in court. There is no change to the boundary between careless and dangerous driving which will always be dealt with by a court appearance.

If a case goes to court the maximum penalty is £5000 together with 3-9 points and a discretionary disqualification.

According to ACPO guidance the intention is that lower level careless driving offences, currently either ignored or simply dealt with by way of warning or advice, are considered for a fixed penalty with the offender being offered driver education in the majority of cases.

What is careless driving?

There is no standard list of driver behaviours or poor manouevres that are considered careless but any minor breach of the Highway Code could be perceived to be an offence.

Examples include:

  • tailgating
  • failing to give way at a junction
  • overtaking and forcing into a queue of traffic
  • wrong lane at a roundabout
  • ignoring a lane closed sign and forcing into an orderly queue
  • lane hogging
  • inappropriate speed
  • overtaking on the inside
  • wheel spins
  • hand brake turns
  • operating a sat-nav or reading a map while driving
  • eating/drinking at the wheel
  • lane hopping/weaving
  • overtaking and causing an approaching vehicle or overtaken vehicle to brake

How will drivers be dealt with?

Depending on the severity and circumstances of the offence there are now five different ways that the police can deal with a careless driving offence.

  1. Summons - you can plead guilty and accept the fine or not guilty and have the case heard in the Magistrates Court
  2. Summons with offer of educational training - you can accept and attend the course or refuse the course and request a hearing
  3. Fixed penalty - you can accept the fixed penalty or request a summons and either plead guilty and accept the court fine or not guilty and have the case heard in the Magistrates Court
  4. Fixed penalty with offer of educational training - you can accept the fixed penalty or accept and attend the course. If you refuse (or fail to complete) the course and don't accept the fixed penalty you will be summonsed and can either plead guilty and accept the court fine or not guilty and have the case heard in the Magistrates Court
  5. Warning and no further action

Options 2, 3 and 4  will only be used in situations that are observed by police officers where there are no victims, no collisions and no public complaint, and not those which are only witnessed by other drivers or road users or after collisions.

In the case of options 2 and 4, the officer at the roadside cannot himself offer a course.  Back office staff will consider the case on merit, comparing driver behaviour with ACPO guidelines and will 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.

ACPO guidance

Fixed penalty

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 such as:

  • driving too close to the vehicle in front
  • failing to give way at a junction (no evasive action by another driver)
  • overtaking and forcing into a queue of traffic
  • wrong lane at a roundabout
  • ignoring a lane closed sign and forcing into an orderly queue
  • lane discipline such as remaining in lane two or three when lane one is empty and there is no other vehicle to overtake
  • inappropriate speed
  • wheel spins and hand brake turns

Summons

A summons will continue to be issued in situations of agressive driving where other drivers are endagered. These may be officer observed, witnessed or involve collisions and include:

  • fast overtakes and lane hopping/weaving with other drivers having to evade
  • pulling out in front of other 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
  • 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 nearside

(15 August 2013)