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What Does ‘Driving Without Due Care and Attention’ Mean?

Driving any vehicle on public roads comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Disobeying traffic laws or failing to remember what your instructor taught you during your time with a green licence could have catastrophic consequences for yourself and others.

The Highway Code is the bible of road rules and regulations, giving users every detail on how to keep the country’s roadways safe for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Some rules need no further clarification. However, there are certain things that you do on the road that might be considered driving without due care and attention, leading to an unwanted interaction with the police or an untimely visit to the scrap heap for your vehicle. Many of them, you might not even realise are an offence. Scrap Car Comparison is on hand to explain how you can avoid falling foul of this often misunderstood law in future.

What is ‘driving without due care and attention’?

If you’re not familiar with this wordy title, perhaps you’re used to hearing the informal moniker of ‘careless driving’. They are one and the same, with the legal definition being to “allow the standard of driving to fall below that of a competent and careful driver”.

But, what activities and behaviours are included under the ‘driving without due care and attention’ blanket?

Probably more than you’d expect. Let’s break it down.

The inclusion of some activities on this list could be thought of as common sense, whilst others are everyday actions that put others at risk despite your harmless intentions of getting from A to B without disruption.

The Sentencing Council considers the following as actions (clarified by RAC) that leave a driver culpable for their below-par driving that is deemed to have put others in danger:

  • Excessive speed or aggressive driving
    • Tailgating
    • Swerving across lanes without proper signalling
    • Running a red light or ignoring other road signs
    • Undertaking (passing on the left)
    • Refusing to give way to those with priority
    • Using the wrong lane
    • Middle-lane hogging*
  • Carrying out other tasks while driving
    • Changing your car radio or using the vehicle’s dashboard screens
    • Reading a map or setting up a sat nav
    • Altering your seat
    • Eating or drinking
    • Allowing passengers to distract you 
  • Vehicle use for the carriage of heavy goods or for the carriage of passengers for reward
  • Tiredness or driving whilst unwell
  • Driving contrary to medical advice (including written advice from the drug manufacturer not to drive when taking any medicine)

*Middle-lane hogging is a new addition to this encompassing law. This behaviour is becoming extremely common on motorways and involves staying in the middle lane unnecessarily, forcing cars into the right-hand lane to overtake. This can be dangerous, forcing drivers to traverse the entire width of the road to pass, or may cause frustration amongst your road-using peers who cannot overtake, perhaps because they’re an awkward distance away from their exit junction.

Some may be surprised to see that driving barefoot isn’t included in the list of ‘driving without due care and attention’ offences. Well, technically it’s not illegal, but driving without footwear could still indirectly lead to a careless driving charge.

Be aware that driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using a mobile phone while driving are not included under the ‘careless driving’ umbrella, along with speeding. These offences are given their own individual charges.

What’s the penalty for ‘driving without due care and attention’?

Now that you know what behaviours to avoid while driving, it’s time to learn why… other than for the safety of yourself and others, of course. The sentencing guidelines for those charged with driving without due care and attention offer a variety of potential outcomes, some far less pleasant than others. Thanks to the offence’s CD10 endorsement code, here’s what you can expect if you receive the UK’s ‘driving without due care and attention’ penalty…

Being accused of careless driving will see you presented with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) from the region’s police force. What this means for the recipient depends on the seriousness of the offence committed.

The lowest category of offence will grant you a fine, typically of £100, and could result in 3 points being added to your licence. You can appeal and plead your case in court, but should you lose, you’ll be liable for court fees and will leave yourself even more out of pocket. If you’re lucky, you might be offered an educational course instead of points on your licence, but this will have to be undertaken within the same police force constituency that the offence was committed.

A more serious offence, such as actions that genuinely endanger pedestrians or other road users, will fast-track you to a day in court and could leave you with an eye-watering fine of up to £5,000 and 9 licence points. If it’s worse still, you might end up being disqualified from driving altogether.

The Sentencing Council will take into account several factors to determine a decrease – or increase – to your sentencing. If you have previous convictions, expect a harsher sentence, but if you’re a person of good character, show remorse, or speed things up with a straight-forward guilty plea, the prosecution might take it easy on you.


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Do you need to declare a ‘driving without due care and attention’ penalty?

As we mentioned in the last section, being charged with ‘careless driving’ will award you a Fixed Penalty Notice. Due to the severity of FPNs, you do need to declare this charge when you’re looking for insurance, or working through other processes, like job or university applications.

The likelihood of you ruining your future just by changing the radio station is low, but be careful, remember our list of activities to avoid, and wait until it’s safe to do so.

Newer, modern cars can make driving a much more relaxing experience. A lot of the distractions mentioned above can be taken care of by the vehicle automatically, or with voice controls, allowing you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

So, if you think you’d benefit from an upgrade, check out Scrap Car Comparison to find the best scrapping prices in 30 seconds and trade your old banger for something newer, smarter and safer.

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