Causing Death by Careless Driving

About Death by Careless Driving Offences

Causing death by careless driving and causing death by inconsiderate driving are two of the most serious offences. The maximum penalty is up to 5 years in prison. Not everyone convicted of causing death by careless driving will go to prison. It will depend on the circumstances of the case and the person involved.

The Police treat collisions involving fatalities differently from other driving offences. They will want to interview those involved, and it is essential you get legal representation. What you say at an interview may be used against you, and this can make a substantial difference to the outcome. Our specialists have experience in representing motorists accused of causing death by careless and dangerous driving. We have secured not guilty verdicts and avoided custody for the driver accused.

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Free Initial Legal Advice

If you have been involved in a fatal road traffic accident, I would be pleased to have a free initial discussion to see if I can assist you. In the unlikely event I am unable to help you, I will tell you without charge. If you do instruct us for further advice or court representation, I will agree fixed fees for each stage of the work.

We have successfully defended these serious cases before and can give you the best advice. Your insurers may agree to pay our fees, but if not, we offer very competitive rates, despite using only specialist solicitors and barristers.

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

How we can help

We will liaise with your insurance company without charge and explore if there is cover in place to cover our fees. Being accused of such a serious driving offence causes a lot of stress, and we will do our best to keep that to a minimum. Our fees are transparent and very competitive for those who must pay privately.

You will have one allocated solicitor throughout your case and will be assigned a Specialist Motoring Offence Barrister to handle your court hearing. No paralegals or unqualified advisers will be used for your very important case.

For more information please see our FAQs on Death by Careless Driving offences below.

Death by Careless Driving Summary

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Legal Definition

Driving of a standard that falls below that of a careful and competent driver and which causes the death of another.

Other Names for Causing Death by Careless Driving Driving without due care and attention causing death, undue care causing death

Main Legislation

Section 2B Road Traffic Act 1988

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Maximum Penalties

Driving Penalties: Obligatory disqualification of a minimum 12 months. Court has the discretion to order a re-test.

Fine: Unlimited.

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Court

Magistrates or Crown Court.

Imprisonable? Yes – up to 6 months in the Magistrates’ Court, up to 5 years in the Crown Court.

Do you need advice about Death by Careless Driving?

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Relevant Cases

Death by 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.

Which cases result in prison sentences?

There are specific court sentencing guidelines which set out the range of penalties — a list of factors which the court should take into account when sentencing is provided. The guidelines can be found here.

The cases which may not result in custody are typically those where the driving involved only a momentary lapse of concentration, with no aggravating features. The lowest penalty suggested by the guidelines is a low-level community order.

The court will determine each case on its facts, taking into account the circumstances of the driver.

What is an aggravating factor?

An aggravating factor may lead the court to conclude that a higher penalty should be imposed.

Examples given in the guidelines include:

  • Where there are other offences committed at the same time, such as driving other than in accordance with the terms of a valid licence; driving while disqualified; driving without insurance; taking a vehicle without consent; driving a stolen vehicle
  • Previous convictions for motoring offences, particularly offences that involve bad driving
  • More than one person was killed as a result of the offence
  • Serious injury to one or more persons in addition to the death(s)
  • Irresponsible behaviour, such as failing to stop or falsely claiming that one of the victims was responsible for the collision

The above list is not exhaustive.

The Court must balance these against any mitigating factors

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.

Can I choose which court hears my case?

This will be decided at the first hearing which will be in the magistrates’ court. The magistrates or presiding district judge will hear representations from the prosecution about where the case should be heard. The defence can also make representations.

The court will then make a decision about whether the case should be heard in the crown or magistrates court.

If the court decides that the case is suitable for a magistrates’ court, you still have the choice to elect for the case to be heard in the crown court. You need to take legal advice before making this decision as there are pros and cons of either venue.

If the court decides that the case should be dealt with by the crown court, you cannot choose to have it heard in the magistrates’ court.

Do I need a solicitor for a causing death by careless driving offence?

Without question, yes!

In these very sad and serious cases, you risk imprisonment, even if you have never been in trouble with the police before.

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