Careless Driving – Highway Traffic Act s.130
Careless driving is a traffic ticket under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario.
Careless driving defined as driving a motor vehicle on a roadway without due care and attention or consideration for other drivers using the roadway.
The charge can have serious ramification on insurance rates and licence suspensions.
Is Careless Driving a Criminal Charge?
Careless driving is NOT a criminal charge.
Careless driving is classified as a traffic ticket offense under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario, which is a provincial statute (a provincial law).
Provincial statutes are only for the province of Ontario and are not criminal offences. This distinguishes it from criminal charges, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code of Canada, such as charges for dangerous driving or impaired driving.
The key distinction between careless driving and criminal charges lies in the element of intent:
- Careless Driving: Typically, incidents of careless driving are considered accidents or events that were not premeditated or planned. For example, a driver may not have intended to lose control of their vehicle, leading to an incident that is classified as careless driving.
- Criminal Charges: In contrast, criminal charges often involve a degree of planning or intent behind the act. Examples include deliberately engaging in street racing or intentionally driving in a dangerous manner.
This difference in the underlying intent is what separates a traffic ticket for careless driving from more serious criminal charges.
Careless driving is a serious traffic offense in Ontario with substantial penalties aimed at deterring reckless behavior on the roads. The consequences of a careless driving conviction include:
- Demerit Points: A total of 6 demerit points are added to the driver’s record. Accumulation of demerit points can lead to further administrative actions like warnings or license suspensions.
- Monetary Fines: The fines for careless driving can range up to $2,000. This significant financial penalty reflects the severity of the offense.
- Potential Jail Time: In severe cases, careless driving can result in imprisonment for a period of up to 6 months, underscoring the seriousness of the offense.
- License Suspension: The driver’s license can be suspended for up to 2 years. This suspension can have a profound impact on a person’s mobility and lifestyle.
- Permit Suspension: Similar to license suspension, the driving permit can also be suspended for up to 2 years.
- Insurance Rate Hikes: One of the long-term consequences of a careless driving conviction is a dramatic increase in car insurance premiums, which can affect the driver financially for several years.
Enhanced Penalties for Novice Drivers (G1 and G2 License Holders)
Novice drivers are subject to stricter penalties due to their limited driving experience:
- Immediate 30-Day License Suspension: A conviction leads to an automatic 30-day suspension for novice drivers, emphasizing the importance of safe driving during the learning phase.
- Demerit Point Accumulation Violations: Novice drivers also face stricter demerit point accumulation rules, and a careless driving conviction can lead to further penalties under these regulations.
Careless Driving Resulting in Bodily Harm or Death
When careless driving leads to more tragic outcomes like bodily harm or death, the penalties are significantly more severe:
- Increased Fines: Fines start at a minimum of $2,000 and can escalate to $50,000, reflecting the gravity of causing harm or death.
- Extended Jail Time: Possible imprisonment extends up to 2 years for these serious cases.
- Long-Term License Suspension: The suspension of the driver’s license can be extended to 5 years in cases involving bodily harm or death.
- Lengthy Permit Suspension: Similar to license suspension, the permit can also be suspended for up to 5 years in these grave situations.
Defining Bodily Harm
- Scope of Injuries: Bodily harm in this context refers to significant physical injuries that are more serious than minor ailments like bruises or superficial cuts. This definition is aimed at distinguishing between minor incidents and those with serious physical consequences.
In summary, the penalties for careless driving in Ontario are designed to discourage reckless driving behaviors and underscore the importance of road safety.
When a driver is brought before a Justice of the Peace (JP) for traffic violations, the JP has the authority to suspend the driver’s license for up to 6 months. Such suspensions are typically considered in more serious circumstances, such as:
- Involvement in a serious incident, potentially causing severe injuries.
- Demonstrating a profound disregard for road safety rules.
- Showing a significant lack of consideration for other road users.
Minor accidents, typically resulting from simple driving errors, do not usually result in license suspensions.
Novice Drivers Suspensions
For novice drivers, including those holding Class G1 and Class G2 licenses, the consequences of a careless driving conviction or paying a careless driving ticket are more stringent:
- Automatic 30-Day Suspension: Novice drivers face a 30-day suspension as a direct consequence of their status and the violation of demerit point limits applicable to novice drivers.
- Additional suspension criteria for novice drivers include:
- Conviction of any single traffic offense carrying 4 or more demerit points.
- Accumulation of 6 or more demerit points.
Cases Involving Death or Bodily Harm
In instances of careless driving that result in bodily harm, the JP may opt for a more severe license suspension of up to 5 years. This reflects the gravity of the offense and its consequences.
For novice drivers, the suspension duration for careless driving offenses can range from 30 days to 5 years, in accordance with the regulations governing novice drivers. This range considers the severity of the incident and the driver’s license class.
Accidents & Careless Driving Offences
Careless driving tickets are frequently issued in the aftermath of traffic accidents, particularly when the attending officer determines that the driver committed a driving error or was not driving with due care and attention. Examples of such errors include:
- Following another vehicle too closely.
- Executing unsafe maneuvers on the road.
- Failing to yield appropriately to other traffic.
- Driving at speeds unsuitable for the road conditions.
Careless driving is a common charge in traffic accidents due to these kinds of behaviors.
Careless Driving & Insurance Rates
Receiving a ticket for careless driving in Ontario can have significant repercussions on insurance rates.
For all drivers, a conviction for careless driving will lead to a substantial increase in insurance premiums. Insurance companies view drivers convicted of careless driving as high-risk, largely due to the increased probability of them being involved in accidents and, consequently, filing claims.
In many cases, this results in drivers being categorized under “high-risk” insurance rates, which are considerably more expensive. This categorization reflects the insurance industry’s assessment of the risk and potential costs associated with insuring drivers who have demonstrated unsafe driving behaviors.
For novice drivers, the consequences of a careless driving conviction are even more severe.
Since their driving record or abstract retains this conviction for three years, it can lead to enormous increases in insurance rates. This is especially true if the ticket is a result of a traffic accident, which further amplifies the perceived risk.
Additionally, novice drivers in Ontario face an automatic 30-day suspension for accumulating excessive demerit points, a threshold easily breached with a careless driving conviction. The financial implications of such a suspension, coupled with increased insurance premiums, can be quite burdensome for novice drivers.
Given these serious implications, it is crucial for novice drivers who receive a careless driving ticket to actively contest the charge.
By fighting the ticket, they stand a chance to have it either completely dismissed or reduced to an offense carrying 3 demerit points or less. Successfully reducing the severity of the charge means that the careless driving conviction won’t be registered on the driver’s record.
This can significantly mitigate the potential increase in insurance rates and help avoid the automatic suspension for exceeding demerit point limits. For novice drivers, this approach is not just a matter of legal defence, but also a critical step in maintaining manageable insurance costs and preserving their driving privileges.
(1) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.
(2) On conviction under subsection (1), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years.
Careless driving causing bodily harm or death
(3) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and who thereby causes bodily harm or death to any person.
(4) On conviction under subsection (3), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years.
Deemed lack of reasonable consideration
(5) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (3), a person is deemed to drive without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway if he or she drives in a manner that may limit his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway.
Sentencing — aggravating factor
(6) A court that imposes a sentence for an offence under subsection (3) shall consider as an aggravating factor evidence that bodily harm or death was caused to a person who, in the circumstances of the offence, was vulnerable to a lack of due care and attention or reasonable consideration by a driver, including by virtue of the fact that the person was a pedestrian, cyclist or person working upon the highway.