CARELESS DRIVING (Driving Without Due Care & Attention), Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act
Commonly referred to as careless driving, driving without due care and attention is legally defined as:
"allowing your standard of driving to fall below that of a prudent motorist".
This offence is often used as a "catch all" and can cover various driving errors, regardless of whether
an accident occurs. The offence (if not resolved by way of a 3 point / £100 Fixed Penalty) carries:
A fine up to £5000;
3–9 penalty points; or
A discretionary disqualification.
Many clients are no longer supported by their insurance companies who often view the defence of such
matters as throwing good money after bad, without even referring to the policyholder.
If, however, there is a basis for defending the case and a case such as this is handled with care and skill,
a finding of Not Guilty can result. This is of particular importance if the offence arises from a road traffic
accident, as a conviction will make it much more difficult to succeed in a civil action for damages, whereas
an acquittal will make it much easier to proceed with a damages claim.
If it appears there is no defence available to the charge, we will nevertheless endeavour to advise on the
best course of action in order to minimise the fine/penalty points.
What is the maximum penalty that I can receive?
9 penalty points or an immediate disqualification from driving. If you are disqualified the Court will not endorse your licence with points. Additionally, conviction will lead to a means tested fine that is typically £200–£800 but subject to a theoretical maximum of £5,000. In serious cases, community service/curfew orders can be imposed.
What is a ‘Prudent Motorist’?
There is no legal definition of a ‘prudent motorist’ so this is for the Court to decide, taking into account the exact circumstances of the actual offence. As a general rule, if a driver accepts that he has done anything wrong, the Court can conclude that the standard of motoring fell below that of a prudent motorist. If an accident has occurred, the party responsible would often be convicted of driving without due care.
Is there any way that I can avoid penalty points
Some Police forces will offer a "driver improvement scheme" instead of issuing a Summons/Requisition. If you agree to sign up to the scheme and attend a seminar, no further action will be taken, which means you would not receive penalty points. The option to offer the scheme is at the discretion of and administered by the Police. It will not be an option if the case is referred to Court.
As a new driver, am I affected in any other way?
Yes. As your licence will be revoked if you reach 6 points for any offence committed within the first 2 years of holding a full licence, a conviction of careless driving could result in immediate revocation of your driving licence. This issue must be addressed, even if you plead guilty by letter, as 6 points would mean having to apply for a new provisional licence and passing both theory and practical tests again.
I was involved in an accident and I accept that I was partially to blame for it. Does that mean that I am guilty of careless driving?
If you accept that you are at least partially to blame for an incident because you were not driving with sufficient care and attention, it follows that you will be convicted. You can minimise the penalty that you receive by pleading guilty at the first opportunity and we will mitigate on your behalf in order to explain to the court why you deserve a penalty at the lower end of the scale. If you are unrepresented at court but you would like to instruct us to prepare a letter of mitigation for you so that you can take it with you to court, we will be happy to do this for you.
I was involved in an accident where it was not only my fault, but also the other driver. Why is it that only I am being prosecuted?
The Police have the discretion to bring charges against any individual. If they have decided to charge you alone and have taken no action against the other driver, this means that they will probably be relying on the other driver for their co-operation in the prosecution against you.
I have received a court summons requiring me to attend court in relation to an allegation of driving without due care and attention. Can I represent myself at court?
Although there is no reason why you should not be able to represent yourself, it does make sense to seek guidance and in the majority of cases, the cost of representation on the day is money well spent. Bear in mind that if you contest the allegation and so your case proceeds to a trial, in addition to putting forward your own version of events, you will also have to cross–examine any prosecution witnesses which may well include Police Officers. More often than not, this process is best left to the experts like us. It is also useful to remember that if you do instruct us and you are acquitted, you are entitled to recover some of your costs, subject to assessment by the National Taxing Team.