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Careless Driving (WA)

Section 62 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 makes it an offence to drive without due care and attention. This is more commonly known as the offence of careless driving. This article outlines what is required for a person to be found guilty of careless driving and the penalties that apply.

Due Care and Attention

For a person to be found guilty of careless driving, the court must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time of the incident they were driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention. The test applied by the court to determine this is objective. This means that the court must look at the degree of care and attention which a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise in the circumstances.

The court has said that ‘due care’ and ‘attention’ require the driver to display appropriate watchfulness, caution and vigilance and it also requires that the driver takes into account that other drivers may not drive in an ideal way at all times. This is a question of fact and can only be answered by the presiding magistrate after hearing all of the evidence.

The offence often occurs due to a momentary lapse of inattention or concentration such as:

  • failing to see another vehicle or motorcyclists when pulling into an intersection;
  • not leaving enough space for the vehicle in front;
  • pulling into an intersection when the traffic light is red but you thought it was green;
  • reversing into a vehicle due to failing to look properly; or
  • failing to stop at a stop sign.

Whether or not conduct results in a charge of careless driving, dangerous driving or reckless driving largely comes down to a decision of the police after a consideration of all of the circumstances of the case. If a person has been charged with dangerous driving or reckless driving, but their behaviour would be more accurately reflected in a charge of careless driving, it may be possible to negotiate with the prosecution for the more appropriate charge to be substituted.

Penalty for careless driving

A wide range of penalties is handed down in careless driving matters.

If a person is found guilty of careless driving, the maximum penalty is a $1,500 fine. The court does not have to disqualify their driver’s licence but can choose to do so under a general power to disqualify driver’s licences.

If careless driving causes the death of, or grievous bodily harm or bodily harm to a victim, the maximum penalty that may be imposed is imprisonment for three years or a $36,000 fine. The court must disqualify the offender’s driver’s licence for at least three months.

The penalties imposed for careless driving causing death, grievous bodily harm or bodily harm to a person through careless driving range from fines to terms of imprisonment (if the accident results in a serious injury or death). Whilst reviewing comparative cases is relevant, the likely penalty in a given matter must be determined after a consideration of the particular circumstances of the case.

If you hold a provisional licence and are convicted of careless driving, your licence will be cancelled.

If your licence has been disqualified, you may be eligible to make an application for an extraordinary driver’s licence.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Courtney Ashton - Associate - Perth

This article was written by Courtney Ashton - Associate - Perth

Courtney holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Criminology and Justice from Edith Cowan University and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law. Courtney is a dedicated practitioner who enjoys a challenge and has competently completed many traffic and summary jurisdiction matters. Courtney enjoys advocacy and has appeared in a number of drink driving,...

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