Everything You Need To Know If You Have Been Charged With Careless Driving

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Nikita BaileyThe article Everything You Need To Know If You Have Been Charged With Careless Driving is written by Nikita Bailey, Lawyer, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.

Nikita is based at our Sunshine office and regularly appears at the Sunshine Magistrates' Court as well as other courts in Melbourne. She is a passionate legal advocate with a particular interest in defending cases that involve sexual and violent crimes.

Nikita strongly believes that the circumstances and background of a person charged with a crime are crucial to obtaining a successful sentencing outcome. She likes to keep an open mind without judgment when listening to an accused person and is meticulous at problem solving whilst demonstrating outstanding work ethic.

Careless Driving

What is Careless Driving?

Careless Driving can be found in section 65 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (RSA). This charge is committed by a person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway without demonstrating the care and attention of a reasonable and prudent person.1 Whether someone has driven carelessly has to be determined by particular facts and circumstances.

Examples of Careless Driving

There are numerous examples of Careless Driving. Below are some common examples:

  • Turning a corner too quickly and mounting the pavement
  • Failing to give way at a give way sign
  • Driving too close behind another car
  • Swerving for no reason in your own lane
  • Swerving into another lane without indicating
  • Driving too fast in slippery road conditions
  • Doing any of the above and causing a collision as a result

Possible Outcomes on a Plea of Guilty

The maximum penalty for Careless Driving is 12 penalty units ($2,307.12) for a first offence.2 However, the Magistrate has discretion to give you a penalty other than a fine. The possible sentencing outcomes for Careless Driving are as follows:

  1. Diversion. It is also possible that a lawyer could negotiate with prosecutors that you are an appropriate candidate for diversion. However, if Careless Driving is combined with other driving offences, such as those which carry compulsory minimum periods of licence loss, diversion will not be available.
  2. An adjourned undertaking (good behaviour bond).
  3. A fine. A Magistrate may impose a fine of up to 12 penalty units for a first offence or up to 25 penalty units ($4,807.75) for a subsequent offence. Depending on your personal circumstances and the circumstances in which the Careless Driving occurred, a Magistrate may choose to impose a fine of a lower quantum.
  4. Community Corrections Order (‘CCO’). Under section 37 of the Sentencing Act 1991, a Magistrate may elect to impose a CCO if the maximum penalty exceeds 5 penalty units.

Under section 28 of the RSA the Magistrate also has the discretion to suspend, disqualify, or cancel your licence for as long as the Magistrate sees fit.

Additionally, if pleading guilty to Careless Driving, VicRoads will accrue 3 demerit points against you, backdated to the date the offence occurred.3 This is not something the Magistrate has power to waive.


There are a few possible defences to the charge of Careless Driving:

  1. Someone else was responsible for the driving
  2. The driving was due to a sudden and extraordinary emergency
  3. You crashed your car or swerved erratically whilst avoiding an animal that jumped into the middle of the road, or you were trying to avoid someone else who was driving dangerously
  4. Factual dispute: meaning you were driving with a reasonable amount of care
  5. Latent mechanical defect4

To successfully defend the charge, you would need to provide evidence that suggests a reasonable possibility that the defence is established.5

Why You Should Engage a Lawyer

It is important to engage a lawyer to make relevant and compelling submissions on your behalf. For example, a lawyer could make submissions on your behalf addressing why the Magistrate should not exercise their discretion in disqualifying your licence or recording a conviction.

A lawyer will be able to craft an individual approach and strategy to your case in an effort to obtain the best outcome possible.

Case Study

Our client was driving his motorcycle along a highway. He proceeded through a red light before braking erratically. In the process of braking, he locked up the brakes on road debris and lost control of his motorcycle. Our client then fell off his motorcycle and slid across an intersection and collided with another vehicle causing their rear bumper to fall off.

Our client was charged with and pleaded guilty to one charge of Careless Driving, Unlicensed Driving, and Driving Through a Red Light. The client had one prior matter for Speeding but otherwise no prior criminal history.

During the plea, character references and material were submitted which supported the submissions that were being made. Our client was concerned about losing his licence. The Magistrate was persuaded to deal with the matter by imposing a 2-month adjourned undertaking without conviction with conditions that our client be of good behaviour, pay a $300 donation to the court fund, and complete a Safe Driving Program. The Magistrate also imposed a 1-month licence suspension.

If you have been charged with Careless Driving, please contact our office to seek expert advice. We have a team of experienced criminal lawyers who can help you with your criminal matter.

[1] Simpson v Peat [1952] 2 QB 24 at 27.
[2] One penalty unit is $192.31 (1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024).
[3] Road Safety (Drivers Regulations) 2019 in schedule 3 at item 19.
[4] R v Spurge [1961] 2 QB 205; [1961] 2 All ER 688; [1961] 3 WLR 23.
[5] Crimes Act 1958, s322I.

Date Published: 25 October 2023

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