Driving without due care and attention is an offence in accordance with Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The description of the offence according to the legislation is that 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.
There is no necessity for a collision to result from your actions. The charges can be brought on the basis of observation by a police officer if he feels your driving — in other circumstances — may have resulted in an accident.
In order for you to be convicted of this offence, the Prosecution have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were the person driving a motor vehicle and that at the time of the alleged offence you were driving on a public road or other public place. (Bear in mind a public place is described as anything to which the public have unrestricted access – for example a supermarket car park) without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.
The main question must be what amounts to driving without due care and attention. There is no statutory description and what this phrase means. Each case is decided on its individual facts. The general principal is that the Prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Defendant was not exercising that degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise in the circumstances.
This is an objective test. That means that in each individual case the Court must assess whether or not in the circumstances you drove in a manner that a reasonable driver would have driven. If the Court reaches the conclusion that, the standard of your driving fell below that of a reasonable driver then you will be convicted.
For this reason you will always benefit by having a skilled advocate to put your case. They will attempt to show that you were showing consideration for other road users and your driving was reasonable.
Distinction from Dangerous Driving.
For the Prosecution to prove that your driving was dangerous (in accordance with Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988) the Prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that the standard of your driving fell well below that of a reasonable and prudent driver.
“In all the circumstances”
It is often possible to show that due to the circumstances of a particular incident it is not fair to suggest that the standard of your driving fell below that of a reasonable person. For example if you are pulling out of a junction and a vehicle is travelling along the main road at high speeds (exceeding the speed limit) then it may be possible to suggest that despite the fact the other driver had right of way you should not be blamed for the accident because his or her high speeds were the major cause. You would obviously have to show that you carried out proper observations before pulling out of a junction.
Res ipsa loquitor – The facts speak for themselves
Sometimes people ask us how they can be prosecuted for an offence of driving without due care and attention when there were no witnesses to the incident.
It is possible for the Prosecution to show that purely due to the fact that an accident took place the driver of the vehicle must be guilty of driving without due care and attention in the absence of any explanation to the contrary. This is a perfectly legitimate course of action by the Prosecution, and the Court are entitled to convict unless a Defendant is able to put forward an account that explains why the accident was not caused by a fall in the standard of driving.
Another basis for defending driving without due care and attention is to show that there was a mechanical defect at the time of the alleged offence and this directly impacted on the manner of driving.
If the Defendant raises the issue of mechanical defect at the time when they are first spoken to by the Police in relation to the incident then the Police are duty bound to disprove suggestions that the accident was caused by a mechanical defect.
Arguing a mechanical defect (as long as you raise it as soon as you are talked to by the Police) effectively throws back the hot potato to the Police and the Prosecution to disprove that an incident was caused by a mechanical defect and they have to disprove this beyond reasonable doubt.
Sometimes vehicles are written off and scrapped by the insurance companies without the Police carrying out an inspection in order to ascertain whether or not there was a mechanical defect and this means that in most cases the Prosecution cannot continue.
If you are convicted of driving without due care and attention then you face 3 to 9 penalty points on your licence. You will also face the possibility of a fine and Court Costs. The penalty points of driving without due care and attention are 3 to 9. If it is a very serious allegation then the Magistrates can impose a discretionary disqualification under Section 34 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 for whatever period the Court feels is appropriate.
Driver Improvement Course
In some areas of the Country, the Police have discretion to allow a person to complete the Driver Improvement Course as an alternative to prosecution. This avoids the risk of penalty points, fines and Court Costs. If you accept that the standard of your driving did fall below that of a reasonable person then this is a good alternative to Court Proceedings. You have to pay to attend the course but the cost of the course is often less than that which would be imposed by the Court in the form of fines and costs.
Unlike most other motoring offences which are absolute and measurable whether a motorist was driving with due care and attention is a subjective decision and it is thus essential to argue a strong case – either yourself or by using a legal advocate. Because a lawyer will have better knowledge of the law and any potential loopholes it is always best to seek legal advice if you face prosecution for any driving without due care and attention case.
My own firm will be happy to provide expert motor legal advice at no cost as to how to best defend a driving offence in your particular a driving without due care and attention case.