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Dangerous driving is when a person’s driving falls far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
Careless driving or driving without due care and attention is when the way a person drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, rather than “far below”. This is a lesser offence.
Examples of careless driving are tail-gating, failure to give way, lane hogging, overtaking on the inside, eating behind the wheel etc., Examples of dangerous driving might include racing, ignoring road signs and lanes, overtaking dangerously and reading a map/using a satnav at the wheel.
Dangerous driving is triable either way, which means that either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court may decide the case. In the Crown Court dangerous driving attracts a maximum two year prison sentence, the potential of an unlimited fine and a mandatory period of disqualification, together with an extended driving test to regain your licence. In the Magistrates’ Court the penalty can be a maximum of 6 months’ prison sentence, up to a £5,000 fine and again a mandatory period of disqualification from driving.
The offence of careless driving is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court only. Again, it can carry a level 5 fine and the court must endorse with penalty points but may alternatively disqualify. If no period of disqualification is imposed, then the court would ordinarily endorse with between 3 and 9 penalty points.
It may be that a driver charged with dangerous driving could alternatively be found guilty of careless driving instead. It may also be that the Police or Crown Prosecution Service are minded to take a plea to the lesser allegation of careless driving as an alternative to a charge of dangerous driving.
There is also a lesser offence of driving without reasonable consideration for other road users, which may be brought as a third alternative.
At the more serious end of the spectrum are also offences of causing death by dangerous driving or causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
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If you face prosecution for driving dangerously or careless driving contact us for guidance on how to plead, available defences and mitigation. You will need expert legal representation so call the Motoring Offences Team at Rothera Sharp on 0800 088 6280.