Hadi Law

What is the Difference Between Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving?

If you have been driving in the UK for decades but still do not understand the difference between the terms ‘careless driving’ and ‘dangerous driving’, don’t worry, you are not alone. Many experienced drivers are completely unaware of the nuances of these similar sounding but quite different driving offences. This is understandable if you have never been charged with a motoring offence in the UK, however, if you are now facing police action related to your driving, it is important to understand the distinction between the two. In this article, we will unravel the differences between careless driving and dangerous driving in the UK.

What does ‘careless driving’ mean?

Careless driving is also referred to as ‘driving without due care and attention’. Under UK law, careless driving is the act of operating a vehicle without giving due care and attention to the road and other road users. This offence falls under the Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 3, relating to careless and inconsiderate driving, which states:

“If 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 or place, he is guilty of an offence”.

The key element in an offence of careless driving is that the standard of driving must have fallen below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver, including driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. Examples of careless driving include:

As you can see, driving behaviours that we all observe on a daily basis fall within the definition of careless driving, including undertaking, dazzling other drivers with un-dipped headlights, and unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane.

What are the consequences of careless driving?

The consequences for a careless driving offence vary depending on the severity of the offence. If the police believe that your actions were on the less severe side of careless driving, you may just receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), a fine and penalty points on your driving licence. Depending on the circumstances, the number of points can range from three to nine. On the other hand, if the police believe that your actions were of a more serious nature (e.g. if your actions caused a collision or if you have been charged with repeated offences), you may be summoned to appear in court, banned from driving (this will be the case if you have received 12 points or more within a period of three years), or receive a higher fine

In some situations, you may be offered the option of attending a driving education course, which may reduce or remove the penalty. If you accept that you drove carelessly and understand why you are being charged, taking the option of driving education is highly recommended as a way of reducing the points and fine you receive.

What is dangerous driving?

Dangerous driving is a more serious offence than that of careless driving and leads to severe legal consequences. In the UK, the act of dangerous driving is covered under the Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 2, which states:

“If 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 or place, he is guilty of an offence”.

The act of dangerous driving goes beyond carelessness and momentary lapses in judgment; rather, it means that the driver had a blatant disregard for the safety of themselves and others and exhibited a willful and conscious choice to drive in a way that endangered lives. Examples of dangerous driving may include

What are the consequences of dangerous driving?

The penalties for dangerous driving are much more severe than those for careless driving. Cases are typically heard in a Magistrates or Crown court. Dangerous driving offenders face substantial fines, a driving ban of at least one year, or even imprisonment of up to two years in the most serious cases. In cases of dangerous driving, the court may also order the individual to retake their driving test before being allowed back on the road.

Wrapping up

It is important that all motorists in the UK take the time to understand the offences of careless driving and dangerous driving to avoid the potential for being charged. As outlined above, even common actions such as looking at your radio or staying too long in an overtaking lane may land you in legal jeopardy. This is why it is vital that you engage the services of a driving offence Solicitor as soon as possible. Your motoring offence Solicitor will review your case, recommend the best course of action, and take care of the matter for you.

For further information on any careless or dangerous driving matter, please speak to our motoring offences law team on  01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline 07869760533.

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