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. This is usually, but not always, accompanied by allegations of failing to stop and failing to report.

A common response to receiving a summons for such an offence is contemplating whether pleading guilty to the offence will make things easier, will be less hassle and will reduce costs.

Whilst this may be true in some cases, getting legal advice early can make all the difference and will enable an individual to make an informed decision about how best to proceed.

What is careless driving?
Careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is committed when a person’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.

Being involved in a road traffic collision or 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:

  • Colliding with another vehicle or road-user
  • 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.

What are the consequences of a conviction?
An individual convicted of this offence faces an unlimited fine (previously capped at £5,000), and their driver’s licence will be endorsed with 3 to 9 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.

The number of points accumulated may also lead to ‘totting up’ (i.e. obtaining 12 or more penalty points within a 3 year period leading to a disqualification of at least 6 months unless ‘exceptional hardship’ would be caused).

It is often overlooked that if an individual pleads guilty to an offence of careless driving, they would then have a criminal conviction that may need to be disclosed. It may also impact on the individual’s insurance policy and premiums too.

Why get legal advice?
You may receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution requiring the registered keeper or nominated driver to confirm who was driving at the relevant time.

You may receive a request from the police to attend what they like to downplay as an ‘informal chat’ but which is really a formal, voluntary interview under caution. Alternatively, you may receive a summons through the post requiring you to attend court on a specific date.

At each of these stages, our specialist Transport Team will be able to provide clarity on the allegations faced and on the procedures involved. Our solicitors pride themselves on providing pragmatic advice on all aspects of a case to put our clients in the best position possible, whether that be through pre-charge discussions with the Police or post-charge advice on a guilty plea and mitigation or a not guilty plea and trial.

Our expert Team will also provide clear information on costings and funding options available, as well as on prospects of costs recovery. So if you are ever in the unfortunate position of being accused of careless driving and want information about how our Transport Team can assist you, of if you want any further information or advice on this topic, please contact us at: transport@woodfines.co.uk.

-Nathan Taylor-Allkins 

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