What’s the difference between dangerous and careless driving?

There is a very significant difference between dangerous and careless driving (also known as driving without due care and attention). However, legally, it all hangs on one word – “far”

Driving without due care and attention is described as driving below what would be expected from a competent and careful driver.

However, Dangerous driving is considered as anyone falling far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

Ultimately, it is the standard of driving that counts in these two charges.

Despite this seeming small technical difference, the contrast is vast. The consequences of dangerous driving are much worse that careless driving.

In a Magistrates’ Court, the sentencing guidelines would be as follows:

Careless driving

  • Momentary lapse of concentration or misjudgement at low speed
  • Loss of control due to speed, mishandling or insufficient attention to road conditions, or carelessly turning right across on-coming traffic
  • Overtaking manoeuvre at speed resulting in collision of vehicles, or driving bordering on the dangerous.

Dangerous driving

  • Prolonged bad driving involving deliberate disregard for safety of others
  • Incident(s) involving excessive speed or showing off, especially on busy roads or in built-up area
  • Driving while being pursued by police.

Some examples of careless driving include:

  • Emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle
  • Inadvertently driving through a red light
  • Driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
  • Using a hand-held mobile phone or other handheld electronic equipment when the driver was avoidably distracted by that use.

Some examples of dangerous driving include:

  • Racing or competitive driving
  • Driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest
  • Using a handheld mobile phone or other hand held electronic equipment whether as a phone or to compose or read text messages when the driver was avoidably and dangerously distracted by that use
  • Disregard of warnings from fellow passengers
  • Disregard of traffic lights and other road signs, which on an objective analysis would appear to be deliberate
  • Overtaking which could not have been carried out safely.

In some situations, there may be some deliberation as to whether the offence constitutes careless or dangerous driving. The police or the Crown Prosecution Service will make the decision as to what category it falls under and may take into account mitigating factors.

If you face a dangerous driving or careless driving prosecution, you may benefit hugely from legal advice. Contact the team at DPP Law and we can advise you on the best steps forward.