We understand how frustrating it can be if you’re charged with careless driving when you believe you haven’t done anything wrong. Fortunately, it is possible to contest it.
The process is similar to fighting other kinds of charges. In simple terms, to contest a charge of careless driving, you must:
- Refuse the Fixed Penalty Notice you have been served.
- Request a hearing at a magistrates’ court.
- Attend court following the summons.
- Plead ‘not guilty’, and provide evidence supporting your innocence.
By reading this guide you’ll gain a good understanding of how to contest a charge of careless driving. But for personalised advice, our team of motoring offence solicitors can give you guidance specific to your case – get in touch for a callback today.
What is careless driving?
According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, careless driving is when “a person drives 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.”
In practice, all kinds of breaches of the Highway Code, whether big or small, can be classed as careless driving.
Some of the most common causes of a careless driving offense include:
- Overtaking at speed and causing another vehicle to brake.
- Failing to give way at a junction and causing a disruption to traffic.
- Middle lane hogging.
- Operating a satnav or reading a map while driving.
- Drinking or eating while driving.
- Failing to adjust driving habits to suit the weather (such as slowing down in snow or heavy rainfall).
- Wheel spins and hand break turns.
This is by no means a definitive list and some offenses are more severe than others. The more serious the offense the steeper the penalty – which you have the choice to contest if you believe you’ve been wrongly or unfairly accused.
How do I fight a charge of careless driving?
Whatever the penalty issued, you can fight it at a magistrates’ court if you believe you’ve been wrongly accused of careless driving.
- If you are stopped by the police during the time of the careless driving accusation, you’ll be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice on the spot. If your car is caught doing something by a camera, such as speeding, the police have 14 days to issue a Notice of Intended Prosecution. You’ll need to reply within 28 days identifying the driver of the vehicle. If you don’t, you could be fined up to £1,000 and given penalty points on your licence. Once you’ve replied, often the penalty, such as a fine or points, will be issued. If you were caught speeding, however, you may be able to take a speed awareness course instead.
- You have 28 days from the penalty being issued to reject the offer and request a hearing at a magistrates’ court. The instructions for doing this can be found on the back of the notice. Just remember to do it during the 28-day period, or you risk a higher fine or more severe court hearing.
- Once you’ve received your court summons, you’ll need to attend court on the day noted. You can choose to have legal representation.
- You can either plead guilty and accept the court’s fines, or contest the charges. To contest, you’ll need to argue either why you were not negligent or explain the extenuating circumstances that caused your careless driving. This could include a medical emergency, a mechanical fault with the car that you could not have reasonably anticipated, the fact that you were under duress or threat from a third party, or something similar.
If you win the case, the charges should be dropped. If you lose and are found guilty, the court will decide the penalty, which could be a larger fine than you would have been given if you’d accepted the original charge.
What are the penalties for careless driving?
The penalty for “careless driving, inconsiderate driving, or driving without due care and attention” carries a maximum penalty of £5,000, and between 3 and 9 penalty points on your license.
A driving ban can also be given on a discretionary basis, but a prison sentence is rare.
In 2013, the coalition government gave the police the power to issue on-the-spot fines for careless driving, which is one of the most common penalties for minor offences. These are usually between £100 and £200, and 3 penalty points on your license.
In total, there are five methods used against careless driving:
- Summons – You will be summoned to court for sentencing. If found guilty, you will be subject to a fine and usually get points on your licence.
- Summons or an offer of a driving course – You can either accept and go on a driving course or reject and attend a court hearing.
- Fixed penalty – You can either pay the fine or request a court summons.
- Fixed penalty or an offer of a driving course – You can choose to pay the fine or attend the driving course. If you refuse to do both, you’ll be required to attend a court hearing.
- Warning – In very minor cases, the police officer may issue a warning and you won’t have to attend any court hearing, driving course or pay a fine.
Looking for a motoring offence law specialist?
It is highly recommended that if you choose fight a careless driving charge in court, you hire a solicitor. They will be able to mount the best possible case for you, and have the training and experience to tackle any situation that is brought forward by the other side.
First4lawyers can provide you with a solicitor that has the experience around careless driving charges to help you fight your case. Contact us today to discuss your situation, and we can put you in contact with the best solicitor for your situation.
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone. All details correct at time of last update.
Last updated: October 2016