Charged with Careless & Dangerous Driving?

The law relating to the offences of driving without due care and attention (also known as careless driving) and the offence of dangerous driving is similar.

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Often the police will form an opinion very quickly as to whether the standard of driving amounted to careless or dangerous driving without giving full consideration to the evidence. This means that you may have been charged with an offence that you have not actually committed.

Many of our clients who have been charged with careless or dangerous driving have gone on to win their cases – often with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropping the charges even before the clients had to attend court. In fact, at the time of writing, we have won every dangerous driving case we have ever defended, apart from one (which involved 5 police witnesses and a police helicopter)!

The information below explains some of the legal issues involved with each offence. However, please do not hesitate to telephone our Careless and Dangerous Driving team who will be pleased to discuss your case without any upfront cost to you.

Careless Driving

To amount to careless driving, the standard of your driving must fall “below” that of the average driver (note the difference with dangerous driving below). However, this is where the law becomes confusing. The court must have regard not only to the circumstances of which the average driver could be expected to be aware, but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused. It is therefore important to consider the particular facts of each case subjectively – whether you acted as a competent and careful driver based on the circumstances known to you.

Careless Driving Penalty

Driving without due care and attention, contrary to s.3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991), also known as careless driving, is dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court and, if convicted, will result in 3-9 points being added to your licence, as well as a fine up to £2,500. The court can also impose an immediate disqualification, even if you have a clean licence.

Of course, if you ‘tot-up’ to 12 points within a 3 year period then you face a minimum 6 month disqualification unless we can convince the court not to ban you. It is vital therefore that a specialist solicitor thoroughly checks the accuracy of the evidence against you.

Careless Driving Defence

The prosecution need to prove that you were at fault in that you departed from the standard of a competent and careful driver in all the circumstances of the particular case. S.3 also includes an offence of inconsiderate driving. It is possible, therefore, that a person’s driving may amount to inconsiderate driving but not careless driving. This would result in a lower number of points, normally 3.

It is important to discuss the facts of your own case with a specialist solicitor. Marcus Johnstone will be able to explain all the options to you and to discuss the very best way to defend your case. Marcus never charges a fee when discussing any new matter.

If you were not stopped by the police at the time of the incident, it is likely that you have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution combined with a s.172 notice requiring you to identify the driver. Please refer to our Failing to Identify the Driver page for more information.

It is worth remembering that it is usually only after the police have identified the driver will a summons be issued in respect of the alleged careless driving offence. If you are unable to complete the s.172 notice (requiring you to furnish driver details) then it is unlikely that the CPS will achieve a conviction for careless driving. Of course you may instead be charged with failing to identify the driver (6 points) but there are defences available to this charge. We will be pleased to advise you in relation to the s.172 notice.

Dangerous Driving

Driving is considered to be dangerous if it falls far below the average standard expected of a careful driver, and if it poses a direct threat to another driver. You could also be accused of dangerous driving if you were thought to be driving a vehicle in that was a ‘dangerous’ condition.
Dangerous driving is usually defined by the presence of the risk of causing physical injury or significant property damage.

Dangerous Driving Penalty

Dangerous Driving, contrary to s.2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991) can be dealt with either at the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. It is a serious offence and the maximum penalty for dangerous driving is 6 months imprisonment if the case is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, or 2 years imprisonment in the Crown Court. The minimum penalty is an obligatory 12 month driving ban and a fine of up to £5,000.00 for a first offence. The court can also order a retest.

The police are often too quick to assume the standard of driving amounts to dangerous driving. In turn, the CPS are often too keen to lay a charge of dangerous driving. It is extremely important to discuss your case with a specialist solicitor experienced in dangerous driving cases. We have handled numerous dangerous driving cases and are often able to convince the CPS to reduce the charge, thereby avoiding a conviction for dangerous driving.

A Dangerous Driving Defence Case Study

At the time of writing Marcus Johnstone recently represented three motorcyclists who were charged with dangerous driving. The police alleged that each motorcyclist was travelling at 135mph, weaving in between cars, undertaking, etc. Marcus persuaded the CPS to drop the dangerous driving charge and reduce the speed to 100mph in return for a guilty plea to speeding only. All clients avoided a ban, receiving only points and a small fine.

Negotiating a deal with the CPS is only advisable if you agree that you have committed the reduced offence. In the above case involving the motorcyclists, each client agreed that they had been speeding. Our clients were therefore extremely happy to walk away with only a speeding conviction whilst avoiding a dangerous driving conviction. It was an added bonus to negotiate a lower speed with the CPS, thus resulting in a lower penalty.

There is no need to negotiate a ‘deal’ with the CPS if the evidence is simply not there to justify a conviction for dangerous driving. This is why it is so important to obtain disclosure of all the evidence against you. Only when you have seen the evidence are you in a position to decide on the best way forward. Please take advice from a solicitor before obtaining and checking the evidence disclosed by the CPS. It is vital that you know what to expect, what to look for, what to ask for, what not to ask for and what to do if the evidence is poor.

A charge of dangerous driving is known as an ‘either way’ offence. This means that it can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. It will be necessary to hold what is known as a ‘mode of trial’ hearing. This is to decide which court should hear the case if it ever gets to a trial. It is very important to take legal advice prior to deciding on the choice of court. There are advantages and disadvantages of both courts and it requires a careful consideration of your own case details to decide the best court for you. It is important to take advice from a solicitor that specialises in dangerous driving law.