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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
(15 August 2013)