Careless Driving Offence

About Careless Driving or Driving Without Due Care and Attention

Careless driving is the name commonly used to refer to the offence of Driving without Due Care and Attention. Other names for Careless Driving include: undue care, reckless driving and inconsiderate driving.

If you are convicted of this offence, the court must impose a minimum of 3 penalty points on your licence. There are exceptions to this which we can advise you about. If you were not stopped at the time and there was no accident, you should receive a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) warning you about prosecution for careless driving.

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Driver Awareness Courses

If the case is not serious and if you are eligible, the police may offer you a driver awareness course for careless driving. This is entirely at the police’s discretion, but we may be able to persuade them to offer you a course depending on the circumstances.

If you would like to know more please contact us today.

Single Justice Procedure Notices

If someone was injured, your case is more serious or you have too many points on your licence, you will receive a Single Justice Procedure Notice for driving without due care and attention.

The court will decide whether you need to attend a hearing.

If you would like to know more please visit Single Justice Procedure Notice

Court Hearings

All careless driving offences are dealt with in the Magistrates Court except for appeals which are dealt with in the Crown Court. You cannot go to prison for careless driving unless you have caused someone’s death.

For more information please see our FAQs on careless driving offences below.

Careless Driving Summary


Legal Definition

Driving of a standard that falls below that of a careful and competent driver

Main Legislation

Section 3 Road Traffic Act 1988


Maximum Penalties

Driving Penalties: 3-9 penalty points, or driving ban (no maximum).

Fine: Unlimited.



Magistrates only (unless an appeal)

Imprisonable? No – unless you cause someone’s death making it a different offence of causing death by careless driving.

Do you need help protecting your driving licence?

Talk to us today about how we can help you with your driving offence.

Relevant Cases

Careless Driving Offence FAQs

What do the police have to prove for careless driving?

To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must show that the standard of your driving dropped below that of a careful and competent driver. This gives the prosecution a very low hurdle to get over. Most people will probably admit that at some point their standard of driving will drop below that of a competent and careful driver. Fortunately for them, if they are not seen and/or lucky enough not to be involved in an incident, there will be no criminal consequences.

Often a prosecution for careless driving will be reliant upon witness testimony and sometimes it can be one driver’s word against another’s. On other occasions, there may be a collision report or even a mechanical report.

What is the standard of a careful and competent driver?

The law states that the test is an objective one. What that means is that it doesn’t matter what the driver him/herself thinks about the standard his/her driving. What matters is what a reasonable person would consider reasonable in the circumstances. The fact that a driver has not long passed his test does not excuse him from driving carelessly (although it may be mitigation). The driving must be judged at the time of the incident. Therefore the question is: “were his actions reasonable in the circumstances?”. It does not matter that with hindsight, he may have acted differently.

Will I be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for Careless Driving?

Unless you were stopped at the time or involved in an accident, the police must send a Notice of Intended Prosecution to the registered keeper or driver so that it arrives within 14 days. The Notice of Intended Prosecution is usually combined with a request for driver information. If you do not respond to the request, you are likely to be convicted of an offence of failing to give driver details. That offence carries 6 points or a discretionary disqualification.

Can the Police disqualify me from driving?

No. The police have no power to impose a driving disqualification. The police can only offer fixed penalties which carry points and a fine depending on the offence. You do not have to accept fixed penalties if you do not accept the offence. Only courts can impose driving disqualifications.

Are there any examples of careless driving?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but examples of careless driving include: overtaking on the inside or driving inappropriately close to another vehicle; inadvertent mistakes such as driving through a red light, turning right into the path of an oncoming vehicle, or emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle; or short distractions such as tuning a car radio or programming a sat nav. It doesn’t have to be much to be classed as careless driving. It’s often just a momentary negligent error of judgment or a single negligent manoeuvre, which in reality all of us have probably made at some point. Some of us have just been lucky, in that nothing more serious happened as a result so that we didn’t face a careless driving allegation.

Are there any defences to careless driving?

There are a number of defences to careless driving which has been put forward in the past, but very few were successful. Obviously, the usual defence is that the standard of driving did not drop below a careful and competent driver. Here are some less common examples of submitted defences: Falling asleep was not successful because the driver should have stopped when he knew he was tired. Mechanical defects can be successful but evidence of the defect will need to be produced. In addition, the defect must not have been obvious to a careful driver. Sudden loss of visibility may be a defence but only where it is very sudden. A driver who loses his vision should stop driving immediately. Automatism eg. through illness can be a defence, but if the driver knows that he is suffering from an illness likely seriously to affect his control of the car and drives, he is guilty. Necessity or Duress may be successful, but the need or duress must justify the act ie. the way in which the vehicle was driven.

Do I need a solicitor for a careless driving offence?

At the very least, you should really get some advice. We can advise you on an appropriate plea and give you genuine honest advice about the prospects of success of your case should you have a defence. Of course, the ultimate decision to defend an allegation is yours. Remember that the question of whether someone has committed an offence of careless driving is a matter of law to be applied to the facts. If it appears you accept the allegation or that the evidence against you is very strong, we can put forward the best possible mitigation on your behalf, to keep any penalty imposed to an absolute minimum. Often those who or are facing allegations of careless driving, also facing allegations of failing to stop failing or report after an accident. Of course, these allegations make the issue even more serious, and it is even more important to seek legal advice.


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