Careless driving
Produced in partnership with 18 Red Lion Court
Careless driving

The following Corporate Crime guidance note Produced in partnership with 18 Red Lion Court provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Careless driving
  • Careless or inconsiderate driving
  • Elements of the offence of careless driving
  • Drive
  • Mechanically propelled vehicle
  • Road or other public place
  • Without due care and attention or inconsiderate driving
  • Examples of driving likely to be considered careless
  • Defences to careless driving
  • Careless driving as an alternative verdict
  • more

Careless or inconsiderate driving

If aperson drives acar carelessly or without consideration for other road users they may be guilty of careless and inconsiderate driving under the Road Traffic Act 1988, s 3 (RTA 1988).

Careless driving under RTA 1988, s 3 can be tried summarily only.Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s 9, Sch 2, Pt 1

Elements of the offence of careless driving

To be guilty of an offence aperson must:Road Traffic Act 1988, s 3

  1. drive

  2. a mechanically propelled vehicle

  3. on aroad or other public place

  4. without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration, for other persons using the road or public place


A person is considered to be driving if the vehicle, when moving, is subject to their control and direction.

The driver must be either:R v Roberts [1964] 2 All ER 541

  1. in the driving seat, or

  2. in control of the steering wheel, and

  3. have something to do with the propulsion of the vehicle

If aperson is in the driving seat when avehicle is in motion they are deemed to be the driver and the onus is on them to show that they are not responsible for example in circumstances in which they were in astate of automatism, as set out in Careless driving—Defences to careless driving.Hill v Baxter [1958] 1 All ER 193Watmore v Jenkins [1962] 2 All ER 868

Mechanically propelled vehicle

Any vehicle constructed to be mechanically propelled is considered to be amechanically propelled vehicle.RTA 1988, s 185

This definition is wider than ‘motor vehicle’ which excludes grass