Careless driving now punishable with a Fixed Penalty Notice

Following a consultation last year, the Government has now made careless driving a fixed penalty notice offence.  These new powers are effective from the 16th August 2013.  However, the option of going to court would still be retained should the driver wish to contest the offence.
The fixed penalty for careless driving is now £100 with 3 points on the driver’s licence. The most serious examples will continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties. The police will also be able to offer educational training as an alternative to endorsement. Drivers will still be able to appeal any decision in court.
Careless driving is an offence related to general poor driving and includes a variety of behaviours, such as tailgating, failing to look properly and sudden braking.  It is defined, under s.3ZA of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as driving that “falls below what is expected of a competent and careful driver” and “driving without reasonable consideration for other persons only if those persons are inconvenienced by his driving”.
The offences for careless driving include driving “without due care and attention” and “without reasonable consideration for other persons” (s.3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988).
Examples of careless driving cases include:

  • Injudicious overtaking;
  • ‘Tailgating’;
  • Turning into too small a gap in traffic;
  • Inappropriate speed;
  • Being in the wrong lane on a roundabout;
  • Attempting to pass a vehicle on the nearside.

Potential Problems with Fixed Penalty Notices?
One downside to the introduction of fixed penalties is that it may encourage innocent drivers to just accept the fine, rather than make the effort to successfully defend their matters in Court.
Drivers issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice could find themselves in a situation where they feel accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice is a simpler, safer and cheaper option.  They may consider that it is a better option than challenging the notice because they will only receive 3 points and a small fine, they don’t have to attend court, they don’t have to pay legal fees and won’t have to take time off work to attend Court.
A driver shouldn’t automatically accept a Fixed Penalty Notice until they have considered the matter properly and obtained legal advice. It might be that the matter can be defended. Professional drivers and their employers should also consider the bigger picture such as increased insurance premiums, the potential impact on a civil claim (if an injury comes to light at a later date ) and potential regulatory action by the Traffic Commissioner.
For advice on careless driving issues or for any general queries on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 105.

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