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Careless Driving In Scotland

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What Is Careless Driving?

Careless driving charges are traditionally brought as a result of accidental or careless acts and consequently often follow unintentional incidents such as collisions, accidents and general instances of poor driving habits. Sheriff Gordon once described Dangerous Driving as “Bloody awful driving” and Careless driving as “Awful driving”

For example, an unintended road incident which has resulted in no serious damage or injury may incur a charge of careless driving or driving without due care. Accordingly, in order to secure a conviction, it need not be established that the driver is guilty of a deliberate act.

The definition of ”careless driving” is contained within section 3 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA) which defines careless drivers as ”those who drive a motor vehicle on a road in a manner that falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver” or ”’those who drive without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place”.

Essentially, to be classified as careless driving it must be shown that the driver departed from the standard of a reasonably prudent and competent driver in all the circumstances of the case.

In order to secure a conviction for careless driving it must be shown that other persons have been inconvenienced in some way by the accuseds’ driving. Circumstances known to have been within the knowledge of the accused must be taken into account, however their age, experience or physical or mental health is irrelevant as are their views on what happened. The Highway Code can and is used as a guide to acceptable driving behaviour but failure to comply with the code will not automatically lead to a conviction (S37(7) 1988 RTA).

The penalties for careless driving include fines of up £5,000 and between 3-9 penalty points or a discretionary driving disqualification depending on the severity of the offence.

Police Procedure with Careless Driving

If you are involved in a road traffic incident the police may wish to interview you under caution if they feel that there is a reasonable suspicion you have committed an offence. If you refuse to attend on a voluntary basis they may decide to arrest you in order to carry out the interview. In this event you will NOT be entitled to free representation by either the local Duty Solicitor or a solicitor of your choice. Similarly you are NOT entitled to a solicitor to be present with you during questioning. You are however entitled to see a solicitor before you appear in court. These minimal rights are often misunderstood by the general public, but explained, on some occasions, with some glee by the arresting officers. Fortunately the discretion of the duty officer is often exercised against both in the interests of the accused and ultimately the interests of justice by allowing access to a solicitor at this time. Choose your solicitor now as the police will not provide you with a list of experienced solicitors or a copy of Yellow pages! Do your research now and keep the details of an experienced road traffic lawyer in your mobile phone. Ask friends and relatives who they would recommend or just get on the internet and do the homework required. Google Ads are just that-Ads go to the actual websites and see if the lawyers seem to know what they are talking about then arrange to meet with them if you have a case outstanding.


It should be remembered that if you have been involved in an accident or if the quality of your driving is under scrutiny, whatever you say at the scene is often crucial. It will be helpful to your defence to make a detailed note of what you said to the police or anyone else at the scene as soon as possible after the incident whilst events are still fresh in your mind. In addition to this photographs of the location or any damage, details of lighting and weather conditions and the contact details of any witnesses are always useful in the event the case proceeds to trial.

Finally, it should be noted that if the evidence against you is overwhelming it may be advisable to plead guilty in order to maximise your credit and minimise the penalty. It is often worthwhile to seek advice on whether you should plead guilty or not guilty. Whatever you do it is ALWAYS advisable to obtain free legal advice from a reputable solicitor, particularly one who specialises in road traffic law on a daily basis. Call 0800 048 8696 for our help.