Careless driving occurs when a person drives a motor vehicle without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other person on the road, which includes pedestrians. In light of the recent snowfall and the failure of many drivers to account for the change in road conditions (including the driver that slid through a stop sign and nearly hit me this morning), I thought it might be appropriate to share a few comments on the offence of careless driving.
Difference between Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving
Careless driving is a provincial offence under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act while dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Dangerous driving occurs when a driver operates a motor vehicle in a way that is dangerous to the public. Careless driving does not require that a person operate a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous, only that he or she drives without due care and attention or in a way that is inconsiderate of other people using the road. Therefore, the existence of actual or potential danger to the public is not a relevant factor when determining whether someone is guilty of careless driving.
Shifting Standard of Care and Attention
A charge of careless driving implies that your actions while driving a motor vehicle fell below an acceptable standard. But what is an acceptable standard? It has been well established that an acceptable standard is not a fixed standard, but rather one that is constantly shifting. Factors that can determine what an acceptable standard is on a particular day include but are not limited to road conditions, weather, visibility, and traffic conditions. A trier of fact can also take into consideration any other conditions that an ordinary prudent driver would take into consideration while driving in the same set of circumstances.
This means that when it is snowing, or even when it is reasonable to expect the roads may be icy, if you do not adjust for the changing road conditions you can find yourself charged with careless driving. For example, if you caused an accident by driving into the back of another vehicle in conditions were it was snowing or the roads were icy, you could be charged with careless driving notwithstanding that you were not speeding. When it is snowing or the roads are icy;
- You have to slow down.
- You have to leave extra space between you and the car ahead of you.
- You have to make sure you have proper working windshield wipers.
- You have to make sure your view is not obstructed by snow or ice on any of your windows.
Failing to do any one of these actions could result in an accident and, depending upon all the circumstances, it may also result in you being charged with careless driving. While you do not need to cause an accident to be charged with careless driving, many charges for careless driving are laid in circumstances where there was a motor vehicle accident. A conviction for careless driving can result in a fine from $400 to $2,000 and your licence could be suspended for a period of up to two years. A conviction for careless driving can also significantly increase your insurance rates. You can also receive a jail sentence of up to six months for careless driving, however a jail sentence is only likely where you have prior convictions for careless driving and there are aggravating circumstances that would warrant a jail sentence.
You should also be aware that the skills and driving experience of a person charged with careless driving are not factors that are taken into account when determining whether that person has met the appropriate standard. Similarly, a person’s driving record is also not a factor used to determine whether that driver met an acceptable standard for care, attention and reasonable consideration.
Examples of Careless Driving
Although not all of the following examples are related to weather conditions and winter driving, they are nonetheless all examples of careless driving. Hopefully these examples will give you a better understanding of how careless driving can occur in a variety of circumstances.
- While driving at night with snow and sleet, but under the speed limit, the driver was convicted for careless driving after hitting a pedestrian where there was known to be a higher level of pedestrian traffic.
- Repeatedly revving a car engine and squealing car tires near pedestrians was determined to be careless driving.
- Excessive speeding in circumstances where other motorists and pedestrians could reasonably be expected to be, could result in a conviction for careless driving.
- Driving at a time when it is reasonable to anticipate you might faint or lose consciousness from a medical condition.
- Making a u-turn on a highway.
- Falling asleep while driving.
- Attempting to overtake another vehicle without first determining whether the road ahead is clear and it is safe to pass.
- Attempting to pass another vehicle near a school crosswalk.
- Hitting a pedestrian at a crosswalk.
- Having your car in a stopped or parked position on the wrong side of the road where it is likely to confuse other motorists.
Careless driving is a serious traffic offence that could result in a licence suspension. Contact me today if you have been charged with careless driving.