Causing Death by Careless Driving

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We understand that being subject to an investigation for causing death by careless driving will be a very traumatic experience. We therefore strongly advise that you seek specialist advice as soon as possible. Hopefully this page will give you a greater idea of what to expect and the options that are open to you at this time.

The Law

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The offence is committed under s.2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988. For you to be convicted of the offence, the prosecution would have to prove that you caused the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle carelessly on a road or other public place.  The term “careless driving” is defined by s.3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in that the standard of driving falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver or that the driver did not show reasonable consideration for other pedestrians and vehicles on the road.

What is considered careless driving?

The Crown will need to prove that standard of driving was “careless” in accordance with the statutory definition above. Examples of careless driving are numerous and can include:

  • Coming out of a side junction into the path of another vehicle;
  • A minor bump or shunt with another vehicle;
  • Using a satellite navigation system or map whilst driving;
  • Lighting a cigarette;
  • Middle lane hogging;
  • Failing to wear sunglasses in sunny weather; or
  • Eating or drinking whilst driving.

What needs to be proved for me to be convicted?

1. Standard of driving

The Crown must prove that your driving was careless and satisfy the statutory test specified above. This can be proven by witness evidence or via the use of expert evidence relating to accident reconstruction. They can also use comments made by you in your police interview to assist them in proving this element of the offence.

It is very important to remember that the standard of your driving must be proven to be “careless” in order for the Court to convict you of this offence. If there is little credible evidence dealing with this point then the Crown should struggle to secure a conviction against you. This only emphasises the importance of us reviewing all evidence in your case as soon as possible. We may be able to reach an early compromise with the Prosecution, or possibly even argue to have the charges dropped at an early stage

2. Cause of death

The Crown must prove that the manner of your driving resulted in the death of the other road user. This issue will require a great deal of exploration and investigation on our behalf and therefore we strongly advise that you contact us to discuss this matter with one of our lawyers as soon as possible.

The Crown must prove that the manner of your driving resulted in the death. They do not need to prove that the driving was the sole cause of the death, however they must prove that it was a cause, this is affirmed in the case of R v Hennigan which confirms that the if the defendant’s driving is the cause of death to more than a minimal extent then the Court can convict the defendant of the offence.


Every case will be assessed on its own merits, however common defences to the “careless” element of the offence often consist of:

  • The fault lay with the other road user or third party;
  • Your driving was not “careless” in accordance with the definition above;
  • Lack of credible witnesses for the Prosecution; and
  • Other contributory factors such as unknown defects on the vehicle in question


The offence is triable “either way” which means that cases of this type can be heard either in the Crown Court or the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty the Court can impose is a custodial sentence of 5 years imprisonment. The minimum recommended sentence is a community order (i.e. no prison time). The Court will also be bound to impose a minimum disqualification period of one year.  The Court also has a discretion to order an extended retest at the end of your period of disqualification.

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