WTF? I’ve Been Charged with Careless Driving!

By Carly Mellon, Paralegal Intern for Bulwark Legal Services

 

Careless driving is one of the most serious driving offences you can be charged with under the Highway Traffic Act. If you have been charged with careless driving it is important to fully understand what you’ve been charged with, how this affects your driving record, and what your options are. Outlined below are some definitions, examples, and helpful tips.

Careless Driving – s. 130(1)

Under the Highway Traffic Act s.130(1), careless driving is defined as “every person is guilty of an offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.”

Penalties

  • Fine between $400 and $2 000 and/or;
  • Imprisonment for a term not more than six months
  • Possible suspension of driver’s licence of not more than two years
  • Six demerit points

Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death – s. 130(3)

Section 130(3) of the Highway Traffic Act defines careless driving causing bodily harm or death as “every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and who thereby cause bodily harm or death to any person.”

Penalties

  • Fine between $2 000 and $50 000 and/or;
  • Imprisonment for not more than two years
  • Possible suspension of driver’s licences for not more than 5 years
  • Six demerit points

Common Examples of Careless Driving

Careless driving is one of the most common and most litigated offences under the HTA. The definition of this charge is extremely broad and it can be applicable in almost any situation. Because of this, it may be difficult to understand why you were given this charge in the first place. There is a lot of discretion given to police officers to determine whether the manner in which you were driving can be classified as “careless”. Here are a few examples of “careless driving” behaviours:

  • A motor vehicle collision
  • Accidents involving pedestrians
  • Tailgating another vehicle
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians on a crosswalk
  • Unsafe passing
  • Excessive speeding
  • Failing to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles
  • Any other situation where proper care is not taken when driving

How Does This Affect My Record?

Careless driving is a provincial offence, not a criminal offence, which means that even if you are convicted and found guilty it will not show up on your criminal record. However, because this offence carries six demerit points it will affect your driving record. Being convicted of careless driving will label you as a “high risk driver” and will cause your insurance rates to increase. Some companies may cancel or choose not to renew your insurance when your policy expires. This may be one of the more important penalties to recognize and this is why it is important to try to fight your ticket to the best plea deal possible as to not allow this to affect your driving record.

What Are My Options?

Fight your ticket! You can either receive an offence notice or a summons for careless driving. If your offence notice has a set fine on it you have the choice to either plead guilty and pay your ticket, or you can go to court to fight it by choosing option three on the back. If you receive a summons you are to appear in court to discuss the charges. If you receive this type of ticket it’s because you have committed a more serious offence (ex. if there was an accident).

You have a legal right to view all the evidence against you, meaning you are allowed to ask to see any disclosure, such as officer’s notes, accident reports, and witness statements. You will have the opportunity to review the disclosure and cross-examine the police officer and/or any witnesses. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty and it is up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed this offence.

If you do not wish to take your matter to trial or it would cause more damage, always try to make some sort of plea deal with the prosecution. The prosecutor will likely present a lesser charge that you may choose to plea guilty. Typically, these charges will have lesser demerit points and a lesser fine. Being convicted of a charge that is less serious than careless driving will benefit you and you may wish to take this deal if it is your best option. Some examples of appropriate lesser charges include following too close, unsafe lane change, disobey sign, etc.  

Possible Defences

Being a strict liability offence, careless driving allows for you to prove a due diligence defence. A due diligence defence means that you must prove that you did everything you could to avoid committing this offence and you took all precautions necessary prior to the incident. You must prove this defence on a balance of probabilities which means that you should call on evidence that helps prove that you did in fact do everything you could to not commit this offence. It is an objective test which questions what a reasonable driver would have done in the circumstance that you were in. If you are found to have done what a reasonable driver would have done, then you have proved that you did your due diligence.

Case Law

Listed below are commonly used cases to help prove the accused’s case. They all discuss the standard which needs to be proved by the Crown.

R v Beauchamp 1953:

Beauchamp discusses that the standard of care and degree of skill in relation to driving is not required to be perfection. Rather, using the term “due” care, it is the care owing of an average person and what they would have done in certain circumstances. Another important element discussed in this case is that the conduct be of a nature that is considered a breach of duty to the public and is deserving of punishment.

R v Namink 1979:

This case law establishes that in order to make a careless driving charge, the evidence must “bespeak conduct deserving of punishment in the way of a conviction.” Meaning, mere momentary inattention or a simple error in judgement does not suggest the type of conduct that this section refers to. Momentary inattention if found to not justify a conviction and is not deserving of punishment.

R v Shergill 2016:

If a defendant’s conduct falls below the standard that is expected by a “reasonably prudent driver”, then it is considered careless driving. It also states that a pattern of poor driving in the past may not be a determining factor in whether careless driving fits a current offence. The defendant/driver must prove that they took reasonable care.

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At Bulwark Legal Services we specialize in traffic charges under the Provincial Offences Act. Every situation is different. Remember you have a right to right your ticket. At Bulwark Legal Services we provide free consultations. You can go to our website and send us a copy of your ticket. We will help you decide the right course of action to take.