The first thing to do if you receive a summons for careless driving? Obtain legal advice.

Woodfines’ Transport Law team has recently reported seeing an increased number of individuals receiving summons for cases of careless driving. Many people feel that pleading guilty to the offence will make things easier for them and reduce any costs, but can this be avoided?

Careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is committed when the defendant’s driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. The Prosecution must consider both whether the manner of driving is deliberate, and occurs because of incompetence, inadvertence or inexperience. Having an accident will not necessarily constitute a prosecution for careless driving if these elements are not present.

Case law has provided a non-exhaustive list of driving behaviours that the Courts deem typical of careless driving, which includes:

  • overtaking on the inside
  • driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
  • driving through a red light
  • emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle
  • distraction due to tuning a car radio or setting a sat nav
  • distraction due to use of a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment (this could also be charged separately under a specific offence)
  • distraction due to selecting and lighting a cigarette or similar.

An individual could face a penalty for careless driving of up to a Level 5 fine, and the Court can either endorse the driver’s licence with three to nine penalty points (unless there are ‘special reasons’ not to do so), or impose a period of disqualification for a fixed period and/or until a driving test has been passed. It is often overlooked that if you plead guilty to an offence of careless driving, you would then have a criminal conviction that may need to be disclosed.

Often, if an accident occurs, you may be required to attend the police station to speak with police officers. The severity of the situation may be downplayed with the voluntary interview referred to as an ‘informal chat’.  Therefore, you may not instruct a solicitor to assist you throughout the interview process, but the fact is that legal assistance should always be sought when attending an interview under caution, be that voluntary or otherwise, so that a solicitor can advise you through the process.

Woodfines’ Transport team advises that if you are ever in a position where you are to be questioned regarding an offence of careless driving, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

In such situations, early intervention is key and our team will assess the circumstances of the offence, and determine whether you have a defence, or whether the elements of the offence are present in the circumstances. Investing in obtaining legal advice at an early stage could avoid any additional time or cost if the case does end up in Court.

For further help or advice, please contact a member of our Transport team on

 – Michelle O’Garro

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.