Changes to sentencing guidelines and the part introduction of provisions of the Road Safety Act during August 2008 have meant a shift in the emphasis placed on careless driving. The changes will hit home the message that driving involves control of a potentially lethal weapon and requires total concentration.
The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines now make specific reference to degrees of carelessness. For example, a momentary lapse of concentration at a low speed is considered less culpable and would be subject to the imposition of 3-4 points whereas overtaking at speed, resulting in a collision, would attract 7-9 points or a disqualification order. The magistrates would also consider driving at excessive speed, carrying out other tasks whilst driving, disregarding the extra risk associated with carrying a heavy load and tiredness as indicating a higher degree of culpability. The increased importance attached to careless driving is emphasised in the fact that the maximum fine for careless driving has doubled from £2500 to £5000.
However, perhaps the most significant change in the way the courts are viewing offences for careless driving is the introduction of the new offence of causing death by careless driving, where for the worst cases drivers can face up to 5 years imprisonment. Cases where the death is linked with another offence, such as driving without insurance or where the driver has previous motor offences, particularly ones for bad driving , will be considered serious aggravating features by the Court. Even for those cases where the Court considered that the death was the result of momentary inattention, with no aggravating features, the offender will most likely be subject to a community service order and disqualification.
The lesson is that all driving is an inherently dangerous activity and requires full attention.