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Kang & Co Solicitors is a truly specialist high-end law firm providing legal advice and representation for all matters involving Criminal Law and Driving Offences. We are ranked as a top tier law firm by The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partner’s prestigous law guides.

Our head office is located at 1 Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre and we offer our services throughout England and Wales on a private fee-paying basis. We also have an office at 330 High Holborn in London and another office in central Milton Keynes. We are frequently instructed by individuals and businesses nationwide.

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Birmingham Office

1 Victoria Square
West Midlands
B1 1BD

330 High Holborn Kang and Co Solicitors London

London Office

330 High Holborn

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The Pinnacle
Midsummer Boulevard
Milton Keynes

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Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving: What You Need to Know

by | Dec 28, 2023 | Articles, Driving Offence Advice

Before June 2022, there had only been two driving offences relating to serious injury, these were:

However, one common issue that arose regularly was that the nature of causing a serious injury was only reflected in a charge if an individual had caused serious injury by driving dangerously or caused serious injury when driving disqualified.

The question then posed is what happens in circumstances where a serious injury has occurred during a collision but the driver responsible has not driven dangerously and is not disqualified from driving?

The standard for dangerous driving is set within the provisions in s 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1998 providing that a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if,

(a)the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b)it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

Examples of what falls far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver and would amount to dangerous driving include;

  • Overtaking in dangerous situations;
  • Racing or aggressive driving;
  • Driving whilst distracted;
  • Ignoring traffic/road signs;
  • Driving whilst fatigued or injured.

Many drivers will find themselves in the unfortunate position of driving at a competent standard however for whatever reason, the car in front may abruptly stop, leaving no time to apply the brakes, resulting in crashing into the back of another vehicle and causing the driver of that vehicle serious injury. In certain circumstances, not reacting promptly may amount to careless driving.

For a significant period, given the test for dangerous driving had not been met, many drivers in this position found themselves charged with the offence of careless driving.

In comparison to dangerous driving, what amounts to careless driving can seem like a somewhat lower threshold. The provisions for this offence are set out in section 3ZA Road Traffic Act 1998 which dictates careless driving is met if the driving simply falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.


What is Careless Driving?

The Crown Prosecution Service has also provided guidance on what may amount to careless driving:

a)Overtaking on the inside;
b) Driving inappropriately close to another vehicle;
c) Inadvertently driving through a red light;
d) Emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle;
e) Tuning a car radio;
f) Using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment where the driver was avoidably distracted by that use;
g) Selecting and lighting a cigarette or similar where the driver was avoidably distracted by that use.

However, the above examples are not conclusive, and each case is objectively based on its facts.

Given the guidance and high threshold for dangerous driving, many individuals who were found in circumstances beyond their control often found themselves charged with careless driving. However, the offence of careless driving is a summary-only offence (which means it can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court) and whilst the offence of careless driving considers injury caused to others, the level of injury being serious is not reflected within the guidelines, indeed the sentencing range itself is considerably lenient, attracting a Band C fine as the maximum penalty with potential disqualification or between 3 – 9 penalty points.

Due to the lenient nature of the sentencing guidelines for the offence of careless driving, previously defendants would appear in Court after causing serious injury to others and only receive the maximum number of penalty points or a short driving disqualification.

It finally became apparent to the Ministry of Justice that there was a significant gap in the law, as an offence needed to be created for situations where careless driving caused serious injury.


Consultation and Review

In May 2014, the Ministry of Justice announced a full review of all driving offences and penalties and consideration was given in relation to whether there was a gap in the law relating to careless driving resulting in serious injury and, if so, whether a new offence should be created.

Following consultation of all driving offences, the Government confirmed it would proceed with enacting legislation to create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving as it wanted to close the gap that failed to recognise the harm caused where drivers cause serious injury by their careless driving. This was also because there was no specific offence of causing serious injury by careless driving despite the fact any injuries caused by the offence were wide-ranging and could also result in a life-changing injury.


New Legislation

The fact victims of these offences would have life-changing effects and the individual responsible received 9 points and a fine was shockingly disproportionate, new legislation came into force on 28th June 2022 to prevent that disparity for any future offences related to causing a serious injury by careless driving.

Section 87 Police Crime and Sentencing Act 2022 created the new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, which was inserted into section 2C Road Traffic Act 1988.


What is “Serious Injury”

The new offence includes “serious injury” and defines what amounts to serious injury:

2C Causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving

  1. A person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.
  2. In this section “serious injury” means –
    a) In England and Wales, physical harm which amounts to grievous bodily harm for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, and
    b) In Scotland, severe physical injury

    This could also include a wide range of injuries, the most common being broken bones and fractures however it is important to be aware that psychological harm can also amount to a serious injury.


    Sentencing Guidelines

    Given the previous disparity in the Court’s sentencing powers, the sentence guidelines for careless driving and causing serious injury by careless driving are significantly different.

    The sentencing guidelines for causing serious injury by careless driving came into force in July 2023. 

    The maximum sentence that can be imposed for this offence is 2 years custody (imprisonment), with the range starting at a low-level community order to 2 years custody. This therefore means, that unlike the offence of careless driving, a financial penalty is no longer a considered option.

    In addition, given the Magistrates’ Court’s sentencing powers do not go beyond imposing more than a period of 6 months imprisonment, this offence is considered an “either way” offence, meaning the matter could be sent to the Crown Court for greater punishment.

    Another significant difference is the fact that the new offence of careless driving causing serious injury carries a compulsory disqualification from driving for a minimum of 12 months. This is in comparison to the simple offence of just careless driving where disqualification was at the Court’s discretion and an option to impose as an alternative to the imposition of 7 – 9 penalty points.

    Due to the new legislation in force, It is apparent that the potential repercussions for drivers on the roads are far more severe in circumstances where accidents and collisions occur. Suppose any serious injury has been caused because of failing to break in time, being distracted by a phone or switching channels on the radio. In that case, the consequences will result in an obligatory 12-month disqualification and a potential period in prison.


    But What If I Didn’t Intend to Cause Any Injury?

    Most motoring offences are known as strict liability offences, this means that there is no need for the prosecution to prove that someone intended to drive in a careless manner or have the intention to cause serious injury to another. Intention is therefore irrelevant where the offence of causing serious injury by careless driving is concerned. If the Crown can show that there was careless driving, and it caused serious injury, this will be sufficient for a conviction.

    Ultimately, causing serious injury by careless driving is a serious offence which can have life-changing effects on not only the injured party but also the individual who has been charged with the offence. The prospect of being disqualified from driving for at least 12 months and the potential of receiving a custodial sentence can have a devastating impact on not only yourself but also those around you such as your family and friends. It is therefore imperative that you seek out independent legal advice from an expert motoring lawyer who can navigate you through the process and assist with mitigating your circumstances to ensure that you receive a just outcome.

    Do you require legal advice &/or representation?

    If you are facing a driving offence prosecution and require expert legal representation at Court, call our lawyers on 0330 818 9843 or complete our Contact Form.

    Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving: What You Need to Know, uk motoring law

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