Careless Driving

Fighting Careless Driving

Careless Driving is one of the most frequently issued charges in Ontario.  This ticket is used most commonly when the police are investigating an accident and have determined a party to be responsible.  This offence carries very significant penalties, but it can usually be successfully contested in court.

What is Careless Driving?

It is important to first look at the actual language of the law. Section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8 states: “Driving on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.  What does “without due care and attention” and “without reasonable consideration” really mean? These are extremely vague terms.  The prosecutor is required to prove you were in contravention of the law to find you guilty and in many situations, they will not be able to.

What is the penalty for Careless Driving?

The penalty for Careless Driving is as follows:

  • Minimum Fine: $490.00
  • Maximum Fine: $2500.00
  • Demerit Points: 6
  • A license suspension of up to 2 years
  • A jail sentence of up to 6 months
  • Classified as a “serious” offence by most insurance companies

Will Careless Driving affect my insurance rates?

Definitely. Careless Driving is classified as a “serious” offence by insurance companies. This generally means you will be labeled as “high risk”.  If convicted of Careless Driving, your insurance will be affected for 3 years or more.  Even one conviction of Careless Driving can cause your insurance rates to double, triple, or trigger a complete cancellation of your policy.

How can I fight a Careless Driving ticket?

The first thing you will want to do is consider and investigate whether there are avenues to have the charge dismissed or withdrawn entirely.  Only in situations where there is no reasonable option to eliminate the ticket should you even consider a negotiated reduction instead.  If an accident was involved there may be more at stake than you realize.

As explained above, the charge has some very vague terms that need to be proven in court, and the in many cases, the prosecutor may not be able to do this.  It is critical that you understand whether your particular case is “winnable” at trial and what your odds of success are.  With so much on the line, you would not want to find out after the trial is over that your case was not as strong as you thought or that you missed a crucial argument that would have made a difference.  It would be too late.  This is why contacting a company like Ticket Shield will ensure that you understand your options and potential risks.

Similarly, if you end up deciding that a negotiated reduction (plea deal) is a better option for you, it is critical that you understand what you are agreeing to.  Reducing this serious charge to something that insurance companies still consider “major” is not likely to help.  We have handled thousands of similar cases and can provide you with the experience and insight required to know if you are really getting the “best” the prosecutor is willing to offer.

What is a defence to Careless Driving?

Due to the vague nature of the charge, developing a defence is much more complicated than it is for something like a speeding ticket.  Can the prosecutor actually prove you were driving “without due care and attention”?  Carefully considering whether the essential elements of the charge can be proven is important.  Does the prosecutor have enough information to even know where, when and how the incident occurred?  A lot of the time, they do not.

The standard of proof in traffic court is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  This combined with the vague terminology for the charge means that there are some very real opportunities to have this ticket dismissed or withdrawn at court.  Be mindful that your defence needs to be constructed in a way that addressing the law directly.  It will be a mistake to use a “reason” or “explanation” for the accident as an excuse for what the Justice of the Peace considers “careless driving”.  It will not be enough.  At court, framing your argument correctly is very important.  In many trial scenarios, a single statement can be the difference between being found guilty and having the ticket dismissed.  Ticket Shield can ensure that you are aware of the pitfalls and can navigate the case appropriately.  We want to win as much as you do.

Is Careless Driving a “blanket offence”?

The term “blanket offence” is often used to describe Careless Driving.  The reason for this is that it is the charge the police almost always use when there was an accident. They claim this is because they have been instructed by their superiors to just hand out the tickets and let the court system figure out the rest.

How to Fight Careless DrivingThe police officers will regularly tell the person being charged that they “need to” give them the ticket and they should fight it.  It may feel strange to be given a ticket by an officer only to then have them suggest that you try to fight it.  In order for their plan to use this as a “blanket offence” to work, they need people to fight the ticket.  After all, the language of the charge does not appropriately describe most accidents.  The officer has not spent a sufficient amount of time investigating the accident to determine which of the Highway Traffic Act charges best fit the situation, but it is hardly ever a case of actual “careless driving”.  

The good news is that if you handle the case correctly, there is a chance the ticket could be eliminated completely.  Ticket Shield can help with this.  In the event that we decide that the ticket cannot be eliminated, we will ensure that a more appropriate (and very minor) offence is substituted in instead.

Is Careless Driving a criminal offence?

No.  Careless Driving is not a criminal offence since it is issued under the Highway Traffic Act, not the Criminal Code of Canada.  This means that you will not be given a criminal record even if you are found guilty of the charge.  That said, the penalties are still very significant and can involve a licence suspension or dramatically increased insurance rates.  It can have serious implications for employment and your future.

Is a “momentary inattention” enough to find me guilty?

Careless Driving is a complicated offence to defend against. There are specific principles that apply to the offence which can mean the difference of whether or not you are convicted.

The standard of which the defendant’s ability to drive is measured is not based on “perfection”.  The driver’s ability is measured against a “reasonable” standard or skill of the average person. A mere momentary inattention or error in judgment is generally seen as sufficient to justify a conviction for this very serious offence.  In instances that involve an accident, the fact that a serious injury, or death, has resulted from the accident, is generally not relevant to the assessment of whether or not there was a departure from the reasonable standard of care when making a decision about Careless Driving.  Even inadvertent negligence is not necessarily enough to warrant a conviction of Careless Driving. 

Were you charged with Careless Driving when there was no accident involved?

You will notice that many of the topics on this page make the assumption that your Careless Driving charge related to an accident.  The vast majority of the Careless Driving charges in Ontario are due to accidents, but it is not the only application of the offence.  Again, this goes back to the broad and vague wording of the law.

Careless Driving LawyerWe have had clients who have been charged with Careless Driving for eating food while driving, doing their makeup, aggressive driving, “road rage” or simply weaving between lanes.  These situations are generally a little more serious because instead of the officer using the ticket as a “blanket offence”, they are using it specifically because they may believe you were actually driving “without due care and attention” or “without reasonable consideration” for other drivers.  It is a much more practical use of the charge, and it is much more likely to actually stick. 

In a situation where you have been charged with Careless Driving without being in an accident, it is highly recommended that you get in touch with us to explain exactly what happened and allow us to do a FREE case assessment.  With such a range of possible reasons you may have been charged, we would appreciate the opportunity to provide some personalized insight into your case. 

How will Ticket Shield help you fight your Careless Driving charge?

Ticket Shield is able to defend you against Careless Driving charges anywhere in Ontario.  To summarize, this offence is commonly issued to people involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The definition is fairly vague, and because of this, it is often left up to the Justice of the Peace to decide whether you are guilty or not when they apply the law. It is crucial to hire legal representation when it comes to Careless Driving charges because you will need every advantage you can get to make sure you avoid the extremely serious penalties.

We will spend the necessary time on your case with the purpose of eliminating the charge completely by having it withdrawn or dismissed. If this is not possible, we will negotiate with the prosecutors to shield your demerit points, protect your license from being suspended, negotiate for the lowest fine available, and ultimately, keep your insurance rates as low as possible.

Ticket Shield begins preparing your customized defence strategy as soon as we are hired.  If you would like more detail about the process of hiring us, please check out our “How It Works” page.  We know that you will be impressed with what we are able to do for you.

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