What is careless driving?
A lot of people get confused about the offence of careless driving. People tend to think it’s the same as distracted driving. It isn’t. For one, there is no such offence as distracted driving. Distracted driving is a term associated with people using their phones while driving, or use of an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, as it is known in traffic court.
Secondly, although using an electronic device while driving may be considered careless, the offence of careless driving applies to a range of other driving behaviours.
The law against careless driving
144 (1)A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway
(a)without due care and attention,
(b)without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, or
(c)at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.
So there’s driving without due care and attention, driving without reasonable consideration for others and driving at excessive speed relative to conditions.
What constitutes careless driving/driving without due care and attention?
Driving without due care and attention basically means not focusing on your duties to pay attention to the road as you are driving. This could be something like eating, getting a little too into your music or grooming your hair.
For an “egregious” example of driving without due care, look no further than this case. A woman was found guilty after two police officers spotted her driving with a bowl in her left hand and actively eating using chop sticks with her right.
This case also helps to shine a light on what constitutes driving without due care and attention. A motorcyclist received a ticket for careless driving after he was seen weaving in and out of a pack of vehicles travelling up to 90 km/hr in wet conditions. A witness also saw him drive on the paved shoulder to get around traffic.
The judicial justice, who found the motorcyclist guilty, said: “The law expects a certain standard of care of drivers on the highway. A marked departure would attract such a sanction.”
A “marked departure” includes careless driving, putting others at risk or driving in an objectively dangerous manner.
Driving without reasonable consideration
Driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway is another way of saying driving like a jerk. For instance, purposely preventing someone onto the highway in zip traffic when it’s safe and appropriate to do so. Unlike driving without due care and attention, which is defined by a lack of something, driving without reasonable consideration involves the driver taking an active role in not showing consideration to other drivers.
This case demonstrates how a driver might commit the offence of driving without reasonable consideration of others. Following a heated argument with a police officer in a gas station car park, a driver got in his vehicle and mounted a curb before tapping his brakes and gunning the engine to fishtail the back end and speeding off onto the highway.
Excessive speed relative to the road
Driving at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions is an offence rarely seen in traffic courts. This is probably because if you are caught speeding you will be given a speeding ticket. You might get this ticket if the roads are icy or it is snowing heavily and you are driving at an unsafe speed.
Standard of the offence
An important thing to remember about careless driving is that its requirements can be quite low. As we have seen, something like eating while driving is enough to meet the requirements of the offence.
Although it doesn’t take much to get a careless driving ticket, they do not always hold up in court. The Crown has to prove beyond reasonable doubt your driving met the requirements of the offence of careless driving.
A ticket for careless driving comes with a fine of $368, however, this can rise up to $2,000 depending on the severity of the case. Careless drivers are also liable to up to six months in prison, although this is only in the most extreme cases. There is also the potential for a driving prohibition and high-risk offences could land the driver with six demerit points.
If you received a careless driving ticket, we highly recommend you hire a lawyer. To speak to the BC Driving Lawyers, call 604-608-1200.