Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving

The Road Safety Act 2006 introduced the offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.

The offence of careless driving is committed when driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place either without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons. The Courts deal with hundreds of cases of careless driving every year and are used to deciding whether someone drove carelessly. These cases can be difficult and involve witnesses giving evidence of what they recall happening over perhaps just a few seconds. People's recollections are not always correct. 

Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is a serious offence with significant penalties. Successful defence relies upon expert knowledge of the law, sound cross examination of key witnesses and access to skilled and expert investigators.

What is careless or inconsiderate driving? It’s quite a simple test and in many ways quite an easy offence to commit. A person drives carelessly or inconsiderately when the way they drive falls below the standard to be expected of a competent and careful driver. Whether they have done so is for the Court to decide after it has heard all the evidence and decided what it thinks of the witnesses after they have been cross examined. Cases sometimes involve expert accident reconstruction evidence for both the prosecution and the defence. Judge's Gavel

Here are some examples that might amount to careless driving:
  • Overtaking on the inside;
  • Driving too close to another vehicle;
  • Driving through a red light by mistake;
  • Turning into the path of another vehicle;
  • Being distracted by tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette, talking with another person in the car;
  • Misjudging a corner.

Inconsiderate driving might include:

  • Flashing lights to force other drives to give way;
  • Misusing lanes to gain advantage over other drivers;
  • Unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane;
  • Unnecessarily slow driving or braking;
  • Dazzling other drivers with undipped headlights.

There is no exhaustive list of circumstances that will constitute careless driving, and every case will turn on its own facts.

Prosecutions for this offence can be dealt with either in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The magistrates’ sentencing powers are limited to 6 months imprisonment, whereas the Crown Court can impose a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. In addition, the court must impose a mandatory disqualification of 12 months and has a discretion to order that the driver retakes a test.

Magistrates will refuse to hear a case if it thinks that its sentencing powers will not be adequate. The Court will look at the nature of the culpability and the extent of harm caused. Some cases will probably come fairly close to dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. There will be a big difference between a sentence for causing death by dangerous driving and for doing so by careless driving.

There are three levels of seriousness to be judged by reference to the degree of carelessness involved. The most serious level would involve driving that comes very close to dangerous driving. The least serious group of offences will involve perhaps a momentary error of judgement. All other cases will come in between these two. I can help with the police investigation and interview process, and in providing expert guidance on whether the driving was careless.

I can call upon accident reconstruction experts and others who might be able to assist. It might be possible to engage with the Crown Prosecution Service over the level and seriousness of the charge or the facts that support it. If you plead guilty or are convicted I can help with making sure the Court is given all the information it needs to sentence you fairly.

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