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The Difference Between Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving

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Careless driving is when the standard of driving falls below an acceptable standard, whereas dangerous driving is when the standard of driving falls far below an acceptable standard. So, dangerous driving is a much more serious offence, and as such has much heavier penalties.

Careless driving

Careless driving is when the standard of driving ‘falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver’.

There are various situations that might amount to careless driving. In each, the driver will either be regarded as driving without due care and attention, or as driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. Examples of careless driving include -

  • Tailgating
  • Overtaking on the inside
  • Running a red light
  • Driving while distracted
  • Sudden breaking

The penalties for careless driving vary significantly. At the very least, a driver can expect three penalty points and a £100 fine. Typically, this will be the case if you are given a fixed penalty notice for careless driving and you accept the charge.

But if you already have too many points on your licence to accept a fixed penalty notice, or the nature of your offence is considered serious, the police may prosecute you instead. This means that your case will go to court. If you are found guilty, you face up to nine penalty points, a fine of up to £5,000 and a discretionary disqualification.

Dangerous driving

Dangerous driving is when the standard of driving ‘falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver’.

So, there is just one word which separates dangerous driving from careless driving - ‘far’. This might not seem like much, but in reality, the two offences are very different. Namely, dangerous driving is much more serious. Examples of dangerous driving include -

  • Racing or driving aggressively
  • Dangerous overtaking
  • Driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Driving despite knowing you are not fit to drive
  • Driving a vehicle that you know has a defect

Therefore it might be that your standard of driving is deemed dangerous, or it might be that the condition of your vehicle is deemed dangerous. It is important to note that you do not necessarily have to cause an accident or injure anyone to be charged with dangerous driving.

The penalties for dangerous driving are hefty, first and foremost because there is a mandatory disqualification of at least 12 months. The Crown Court can extend this to a two-year ban, and can also hand out between three and 11 penalty points, as well as an unlimited fine. In the most serious of cases, you can be sent to prison for up to two years.

Speak to a solicitor

It will be up to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether you should be charged with careless driving or dangerous driving. Either way, we recommend that you speak to a solicitor as soon as possible. A lawyer who specialises in motoring law can advise you of the best approach in your case.

Because of the severe penalties associated with dangerous driving, it may be preferable to negotiate your charge down to one of careless driving. Or you may be able to plead a case of special reasons, meaning that there were mitigating circumstances which explain why you committed the offence.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer about a charge of careless driving or dangerous driving, please contact us now.