Careless driving is an offence under section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act. While it is not a criminal offence, it is one of the more serious offences under the Highway Traffic Act and can attract significant consequences. The scope of what is considered careless driving is very broad and open for interpretation by police.
What is Careless Driving?
Careless driving involves driving without due care and attention or "without the due consideration to other persons" on the road that a driver of ordinary care would have used in the circumstances. The benchmark for assessing whether a person drove without reasonable consideration for other persons is whether he or she drove in a manner that may have limited his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway.
Any situation where proper care is not taken while driving on the road may fall under the category of distracted driving. Some common examples include:
- Changing lanes without signalling;
- Passing another vehicle in an unsafe manner;
- Failing to check mirrors before changing lanes or reversing;
- Following another vehicle too closely;
- Excessive speeding, stunt driving, or street racing;
- Talking on, texting on, or holding a cell phone;
- Distracted driving, such as putting on makeup or reading;
- Running a red light;
- Coming in contact with another vehicle; and
- An accident involving pedestrians or cyclists.
Possible Penalties if Convicted of Careless Driving
A conviction for careless driving does not go on your criminal record. Nonetheless, there can be serious consequences. If convicted, the penalties include:
- Fine: A minimum fine of $400, up to a maximum of $2000.
- Imprisonment: Alternatively, or in addition, you could also have to serve a term of imprisonment, up to six months in custody.
- Suspension: Your licence or permit may be suspended for a period of up to two years.
- Demerit Points: Six demerit points.
If the offence involved death or bodily harm, the potential consequences are more severe:
- Fine: A minimum fine of $2000, up to a maximum of $50,000
- Imprisonment: Alternatively, or in addition, you could also have to serve a term of imprisonment, up to two years in custody.
- Suspension: Your licence or permit may be suspended for a period of up to five years.
Additionally, regardless if death or bodily harm occurred, a Careless driving conviction will impact your insurance rates.
Defences Available for a Charge of Careless Driving
As in every case, the defences that may be available to you depend on the specific facts of your case.
The following list includes defences that may be available in a Careless Driving case:
- Factual Innocence: If the Crown is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove without due care and attention or "without the due consideration to other persons" on the road that a driver of ordinary care would have used in the circumstances, this will lead to an acquittal of the charge(s).
Violation of Charter Rights: Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, individuals are afforded specific rights, including:
- the right against unreasonable search and seizure;
- the right to not be arbitrarily detained;
- the right to be informed promptly of the reasons for arrest;
- the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay; and
- the right to be tried within a reasonable time.
If there has been a violation of your Charter rights, the Crown may offer to withdraw your charge or offer a deal to a lesser charge. A successful Charter challenge may also result in a stay of proceedings.
- Plea to a Lesser Offence and/or Lesser Fine: Your lawyer may also be able to initiate resolution discussions with the Crown Attorney to plead to a lesser offence (i.e. Following Too Close) or to receive a lesser fine. The Provincial Offences Act allows for the possibility for a reduction in fines, even where there is a minimum set out in the Regulation.
The information above provides a general overview of the offence of Careless Driving, as well as potential penalties and defences. However, no two cases are alike. Every case is fact-specific and ranges in complexity, depending on the issues at play.
Were you charged with Careless Driving? Contact our office today at 416-924-5969 to learn more about how we can help you. Our team of lawyers is prepared to conduct a thorough review of your situation and develop an approach that is tailored to your needs. Obtaining proper legal representation is the first step in preparing a successful defence.