You’re driving down the street on a sunny winter day. The traffic has been stop-and-go and suddenly the car ahead of you unexpectedly brakes hard coming to a complete stop. You try to stop in time but slide on the wet roadway and collide with the stopped vehicle ahead of you. Looking at the damage to the two vehicles your first thoughts are of the cost to repair the damage and how much the collision is going to cause your insurance rate to increase. Eventually a Police Officer arrives to document the collision and take statements, but before they leave you are handed a ticket for Careless Driving. Were you actually careless? What is a Careless Driving charge and what are the consequences if your plead guilty or are convicted?
Let’s take a look…
Careless Driving falls under section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act:
“130. 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 on conviction 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 licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2009, c. 5, s. 41.”
There are very few sections of the Highway Traffic Act that are so brief and so generic in their wording as the above section for Careless Driving. The generic wording of this section covers an incredibly broad range of situations. We’ve seen this charge issued everywhere from a single vehicle sliding off a slippery road with no damage to their vehicle or any property, all the way through to a collision involving a fatality. That’s an incredible array of circumstances to fall under this one sentence section of the HTA.
The most common situation in which police issue this charge is a collision, especially if there is concern that there could potentially be an injury involved. Even in cases where everyone has been cleared as injury free by the attending ambulance staff, a Careless Driving charge is very common. Sometimes a ticket or summons may be issued at the scene of the collision. Other times the charge may be issued on a later date by means of a summons. You may even be resting in your hospital bed with serious injuries and be served an offence notice by a Police Officer.
There are generally two ways that a Careless Driving charge will be issued: a “ticket” that will go to municipal prosecution at court and a “summons” which will go to provincial prosecution. A standard ticket (or part 1 offence) will have a fixed set fine on the bottom left hand corner of the document and a total payable fine (the set fine plus the victim fine surcharge and costs). A summons (or part 3 offence) is generally issued in cases where something more serious or egregious has occurred and can potentially incur much more serious penalties at court.
CVOR AND DEMERIT POINTS
The MTO issues varying demerit point penalties depending on which section of the Highway Traffic Act you are convicted of ranging from 0 to 7 demerit points. A conviction for Careless Driving will result in a 6 demerit point penalty; one of the largest possible demerit point penalties that can be issued. If you are a G1 or G2 driver, this will trigger a mandatory suspension or cancellation of your driver’s licence.
For Commercial Motor vehicle drivers, a conviction for Careless Driving will result in a 5 CVOR point penalty. A conviction for Careless Driving may result in termination of employment and present a large obstacle in obtaining new employment.
A part 1 offence (a “ticket”) for Careless Driving should list a set fine of $400 and a total payable fine of $490. A more serious summons for Careless Driving will result in a fine ranging between $400 and $2000. On top of this base fine the court adds the 25% victim fine surcharge resulting in a total payable fine ranging between $500 and $2,500. Failure to pay an outstanding fine to the Court within the allocated period of time can result in a suspension of your driver’s licence.
DRIVER’S LICENCE SUSPENSION
There are a few ways that a conviction for Careless Driving can result in a suspension of your driver’s licence:
- A full driver’s licence (i.e. class G) reaching 9 or more demerit points and being suspended after a mandatory MTO interview.
- A full driver’s licence reaching 15 or more demerit points resulting in a suspension without an interview.
- A novice driver’s licence (i.e. G1 or G2) triggering an escalated sanction for a conviction involving 4 or more demerit points for a single offence.
- A court appointed driver’s licence suspension for not more than two years.
A driver’s licence suspension is not only an inconvenience. It can also be very costly for finding alternate means of transportation and potentially increasing your insurance costs.
A conviction for Careless Driving will also generally result in no longer qualifying for standard insurance coverage. Being forced to seek out high risk insurance coverage can result in thousands of dollars in increased insurance costs before you are able to re-qualify for standard insurance coverage. If the cost of obtaining high-risk insurance is unaffordable, you may be unable to drive for an extended period of time.
One of the worst things that can happen to a defendant before the court is to be imprisoned. The interruption to your personal obligations and the stigma attached to serving jail time are enormous. It is rare for the Court to send a defendant to jail for a Careless Driving conviction. Generally this serious penalty is reserved for cases that have involved aggravating factors such as a fatality or impairment. The court can order up to 6 months of imprisonment for a conviction of Careless Driving.
Careless Driving charges are one of the most serious offences that can be issued under the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario. If you have been stopped and charged for this offence by the Police, it is worthwhile to seek out legal advice to know your rights and legal options. Pleading guilty can have enormous costs that could else wise have been avoided by contesting the offence at court.
We provide a no cost, no obligation review of Careless Driving and other matters and can help provide you the basic information that you will need to make an informed decision in how to best protect your personal interests. Our staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.