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SKU: 8.08
  • Advice

    When considering the sentence to be imposed for a conviction under careless or inconsiderate driving, three levels of seriousness are defined by the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines


    Level of offence

    Fine band





    3 to 4

    a momentary lapse of concentration or misjudgement at low speed



    5 to 6

    loss of control due to speed, mishandling or insufficient attention to road conditions; carelessly turning right across oncoming traffic

    Potentially dangerous


    7 to 9

    overtaking manoeuvre at speed resulting in a collision of vehicles, or driving bordering on dangerous


    Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving (s.2B RTA)

    The potential penalty of 5 years' imprisonment and a year’s driving disqualification.

    Causing death by careless driving under influence of drink or drugs (s.3A RTA)

    The potential penalty of 10 years' imprisonment and a year’s driving disqualification.



    Even though death may occur if it was due to a low level of carelessness and there were no aggravating factors then the court may not impose a prison sentence, a fine alone would not be sufficient so the likely result may be community service.


    Offender mitigation could be taken into account, these would include:

    • How helpful the driver was at the accident scene;
    • Level of remorse (It is for the court to decide whether an expression of remorse is genuine);
    • Whether there have been other instances that have affected their driving history;
    • Any evidence that shows an offender has previously been an exemplary driver (e.g., driver of an ambulance, bus, taxi or similar vehicles) is a fact that the court may well wish to take into account by way of offender mitigation.
    • Whether the driver was on duty driving an emergency and was responding to an emergency.



    • Disqualification of the offender from driving and endorsement of the offender’s driving licence is mandatory;
    • If the courts find special reasons not to impose disqualification, the offence carries between 3 and 11 penalty points; and
    • There is a discretionary power to order an extended driving test/re-test where a person is convicted of this offence.


    The defence of necessity

    Available if the defendant facing a charge of careless driving only did what was necessary to avoid the serious harm that was facing them. From case law, it was held that defence of necessity is available only if by applying the court's objective test the defendant's conduct in their driving was seen as being reasonable and proportionate given the threat of death or serious injury that faced them at the time.


    Requirement for the warning - Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 Section 1 - "A person cannot be prosecuted for careless or inconsiderate driving (among other offences) unless they have been warned of the possibility that they may be prosecuted for careless or inconsiderate driving (or any other offence mentioned in Sch.1 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988)"


    The warning can be given in one of four ways:

    • A warning at the time when the offence was committed;
    • Serving a summons or a postal requisition within 14 days of the commission of the offence;
    • Serving a notice of intended prosecution on the alleged offender within 14 days of the commission of the offence; or
    • Serving a notice of intended prosecution on the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of the commission of the offence.


    Situations where no requirement for a warning is required:

    • If there has been an accident;
    • If a fixed penalty has been issued;
    • If the correct address cannot be ascertained; and
    • If the accused has contributed to the failure.

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