What is the difference between Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving?

There can often be some confusion around the difference between careless driving and dangerous driving in the UK and the penalties which both of these driving offences incur.

This blog post aims to clearly illustrate the points of difference between the two offences. So let’s start with careless driving, the lesser offence.

What does Careless Driving mean?

Put simply, Careless Driving is when a driver’s behaviour slips below the reasonable standards of a competent and more over responsible driver on British roads.

What does Dangerous Driving mean?

If you were accused of Dangerous Driving, it is much more serious and carries higher and much harsher penalties. Dangerous Driving means your driving has put other road users at risk and has slipped far below the reasonable standards of a competent UK driver.

What is the difference between Careless and Dangerous Driving?

Put frankly, these two offences are inordinately different. Whilst Careless Driving carries penalties, it is a much less serious offence and refers to a driver who has driven without due care and attention. Dangerous Driving refers to behaviour which is well below the acceptable standards in the UK and the penalties can be both innumerable and harsh.

What is considered to be Careless Driving?

You may well be charged for a wide range of motoring offences on UK roads. The list below shows some examples of offences that could be classed as Careless Driving. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Holding a handheld phone or similar device (without using hands-free)
  • Tailgating
  • Driving too slowly
  • Driving through a red light
  • Driving whilst being distracted
  • Overtaking on the inside lane

What sort of penalties would I face for Careless Driving?

If you were to be caught driving in a careless manner, you could face a variety of different penalties.

For those who accept their charges, you might expect:

  • Fines from £100
  • Three points on your license

For those who have previous offences, specifically pertaining to driving, you might expect:

  • Court summons
  • Fines up to £5,000
  • Nine points on your license (read our post on totting up points)
  • Loss of license

What is considered to be Dangerous Driving?

You could face a Dangerous Driving charge for displaying any of the following driving behaviours on UK roads:

  • Driving in an erratic or aggressive manner
  • Competing with or racing with another vehicle
  • Driving whilst being pursued by a police car
  • Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol
  • Driving whilst under the influence of drugs
  • Dangerous overtaking
  • Driving if you know you are unfit to drive, for example in an angry or highly emotional state
  • Driving if you know the vehicle you are driving is in fact defective

What sort of penalties would I face for Dangerous Driving?

You might expect to face any of the following penalties if you were sentenced for Dangerous Driving:

  • Unlimited fines
  • Three to eleven points on your license
  • Two-year ban (minimum)
  • Compulsory retest
  • Imprisonment

If one were to cause death by Dangerous Driving, you would expect a different course of events and as such would require legal representation from the offset. The penalties too vary for this sort of offence, and there are three different levels of seriousness that would impact your sentencing.

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