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Careless Driving Lawyers Glasgow & Scotland

Careless driving is a road traffic offence that covers a vast range of situations. Cases can be brought in the Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court in Scotland. Being faced with driving charges can be scary, and your mind can immediately jump to the worst. This post will aim to clarify what careless driving is; what the court will focus on in deciding how serious the careless driving was; what penalties you may face; and potential options you have once charged.


Just because an accident has happened doesn’t mean that someone has been guilty of careless driving. The definition is set out in section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. “If a person drives 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, he is guilty of an offence”. Broken down, this means that if you drive without the required level of care and attention, or you drive without reasonably thinking about other people using the road, or both, it is possible that you have committed this offence. For the latter part of the definition, it is only when another person has been inconvenienced by the driving that it is classed as driving without reasonable consideration for other persons.

To give you a rough idea, things like undertaking another vehicle, driving too close to another vehicle, failing to notice or action traffic signals, and emerging into the path of another vehicle from a side road can all count.


The legal test which will be at the back of the decision-maker’s mind is also found in the Road Traffic Act. Careless driving is regarded as driving without due care and attention only if the driving displayed falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. Because this is a very subjective test, it is important that all relevant circumstances are examined. This could include things like road conditions at the time, visibility of road markings and signs, reliability of eye witnesses, and even the weather. To put it simply, the court must consider the behaviour of the driver in the overall context of the situation. Just because you skidded on an icy road in the snow will not make you a careless driver. However, if you failed to concentrate and skidded on a perfectly dry and non-hazardous road, you may be.

Provisions of the Highway Code are often used to decide whether a specific course of driving can be categorised as careless. Failing to comply with the code is definitely something the court will consider when determining whether driving is careless. This does not mean that if the code has been broken that it will absolutely be an offence. Utterly perfect driving can never be expected from every single person at all times. However, if it is particularly lax and a more significant breach then this will undoubtedly be a factor.


If it is decided that the driving concerned was enough to be careless, the court will look towards penalties. This can range from getting points on your licence, being fined, and if especially serious could potentially lead to disqualification. The court does not have the power to impose a custodial sentence for careless driving. This means you cannot go to prison for this offence in Scotland. However, the wide range of penalties will reflect the wide variety of scenarios which can be classed as careless driving. So, a driver will be punished in accordance with the severity of the offence.

It is also important to remember that any injuries resulting from the incident should be completely disregarded by the court. Only the standard of the driving itself should be considered when determining what penalty to impose. Not, for example, the consequences of that driving. In the unfortunate event that someone was harmed, this will not make the penalty worse.


Possibly the most obvious penalty you could think of would be points on your driving licence. The court is able to impose anything from 3-9 points. The exact number will depend on the level of careless driving exhibited.

It must also be noted that although you may not be disqualified outright as a result of the one single offence, you may end up being disqualified by virtue of the ‘totting-up procedure’. Under current legislation, you will be disqualified under the totting-up procedure if you get 12 points on your licence within any 3-year period. Rules are different for new drivers. If you obtain 6 points on your licence within the first 2 years of actually passing your test, your licence can be revoked completely. Therefore, if we imagine a scenario where you already have 9 points on your licence for various other reasons, and 3 penalty points are endorsed for a careless driving charge, this will be detrimental. It will have resulted in you totting up 12 points on your driving licence thus leading to disqualification. 

  1. ii. BEING FINED

Often as well as receiving penalty points the court will impose a fine. In Scotland you can incur up to a level 5 fine. This is anything up to £5000. In practice fines are rarely this high and are usually in the hundreds. It is important that you pay this fine. If it is left unpaid then the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service can find other ways of obtaining that money.

If the bottom of your ticket is marked ‘ENDORSABLE’, it will not be payable online as your driving record must also be endorsed with penalty points. You must post it to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service or hand it in to any court.


Apart from under the totting-up procedure, f the level of driving was particularly poor then the court can impose a disqualification. Disqualification can be for any period and such bans tend to be measured in months rather than days and weeks. This tends to only be in more serious cases.


Careless driving has recently been added to the list of offences where a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty may be imposed. This means you are allowed to settle the matter and have your licence endorsed with 3 penalty points along with a fine of £100. It is an administrative alternative to being prosecuted in court. This means if you accept guilt, pay the fine and take the points then you will not have to end up in court.

An offer like this is usually only available to those on the less extreme end of the offences scale. If there are 9 or more penalty points on a licence, then the holder of the licence is unable to accept a fixed penalty and they will have to go to court. Where a fixed penalty isn’t thought to be the right penalty to impose, then any prosecution would start at citation stage.

If you are served with a Fixed Penalty and do not accept it, then you will be referred to court where you are able to challenge the charge. Silence is all that is required to show the fact you wish to challenge the matter. This is not always the best route to go down. If you fail to successfully challenge the charge, then this could result in more penalty points being endorsed and a higher fine being imposed than what was in your Fixed Penalty offer. Therefore, if you are given the chance to accept guilt and take this route, it is usually a safer option. However, you should always get legal advice before making any kind of decision surrounding this issue.


In practice, a lot turns on the facts of the case. This is why it is important to seek legal advice before jumping to any conclusions.

A lot depends on whether and how well the prosecution can prove their case. This hangs a lot of the time on testimonial evidence of witnesses and physical evidence such as vehicles or roadside damage. For this reason, it is always hard to tell for definite at the start of a case what the outcome will be.

Another important thing to note is that you must receive a citation for court within 6 months of the date of the offence or accident. If you receive one any later than this, it is unlikely that you can be prosecuted.

Contact Our Carelss Driving Lawyers Glasgow, Scotland

All of the above is why we recommend always going to a road traffic lawyer who specialises in the defence of road traffic cases. Their expertise of the area will allow them to answer any queries you may have and help advise you on what to do when and if you receive a citation or Penalty Notice.

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