Careless Driving offences in Ontario are one of the most serious charges that can be issued under the Highway Traffic Act. The brief and general wording of this offence allows it to apply to a very broad range of circumstances that could surprise many Ontario drivers. Recently this law was updated to increase the severity of penalties that can be applied by the court including specifically higher penalties where bodily harm or death have occurred. Whether you've been charged by the police or simply need to protect yourself as an Ontario motorist, there's a lot that you should know.
Let's take a look!
What Is Careless Driving?
Careless Driving falls under section 130 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act as follows:
130 (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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
This basic definition was expanded as of September 1, 2018 to include HTA section 130(3) dealing specifically with situations where bodily harm or death occurred:
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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
The wording of this section is extremely vague and general. What is "due care," "attention," or "without reasonable consideration?" The first two terms are not specifically defined in this section of the HTA. These criteria are argued at court within the context of existing case law. The third condition of 'without reasonable consideration' is defined as follows:
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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
The concerning part of this definition is that the driving can be deemed careless if the defendant drives in a manner that *may* limit their ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway. The criteria isn't that the specific behaviour *did*, simply that it *may* have been a factor in something potentially happening. There is no list of laid out or specific driving behaviours. Just the concern that a police officer subjectively felt that the driving fits into this very loose and general wording.
This should be of concern to most Ontario drivers. Is driving over the speed limit careless? Wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day? Drinking a coffee while driving? Listening to music or talking with a passenger? This general and vague wording could be a legal minefield for any Ontarian about to get into their vehicle, let alone having to respond at court after being charged by the police.
What Are the Penalties For Careless Driving in 2019?
The current penalties for offences occurring as of September 1, 2018 depend on whether the charge was issued under subsection 1 for a regular Careless Driving or under subsection 3 for matters involving bodily harm or death. The penalties for a standard Careless Driving offence are as follows:
(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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
The court-imposed fine is also subject to a victim fine surcharge for a maximum total-payable fine of $2,500.00. The imprisonment of up to 6 months and suspension of driver's licence or permit of up to 2 years is not mandatory. These latter two penalties are a part of the court process and are argued between the defence and prosecution. A conviction would also result in 6 demerit points and 5 CVOR points for commercial motor vehicle drivers. A conviction would also generally mean being forced to seek out a high-risk insurer.
If the incident was charged under subsection 3 due to bodily harm or death being involved, then the court penalties would be as follows:
(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. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
Once the victim fine surcharge has been included, the total-payable fine issued by the court can range between $2,500.00 and $62,500.00, The potential imprisonment now goes up to a maximum of two years and suspension of driver's licence can go up to five years.
Careless Driving and Escalated Sanctions for Novice Drivers
Novice drivers (i.e. G1, G2, M1, or M2 licences) are also subject to escalated sanctions should they be convicted of Careless Driving. Escalated sanctions penalties are as follows:
- 30-day licence suspension for the first occurrence
- 90-day licence suspension for the second occurrence
- Licence cancellation and a requirement to re-apply for a G1/M1 after the third occurrence. Any fees paid, credit received for time spent in the program or BDE credit would be forfeited when the licence is cancelled. Please note that in the case of a hybrid driver, only the novice-class licence is cancelled on the third occasion; their full-class licence is maintained.
What Should I Do If Charged with Careless Driving?
Careless driving offences are very serious offences with very serious consequences if convicted. After being charged by the police, there will be a lot of important questions that you will need answered in order to make informed decisions in the weeks and months that follow. An uniformed decision or a legal misstep can result in consequences that will affect your life for years into the future.
OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services can help you. Our friendly staff offer a no-cost, no obligation initial consultation to go through your case history and details with you. Put a licenced paralegal in the courtroom for you that knows the law and can protect your rights and personal interests. Our staff can be reached via our toll-free telephone number 1-844-647-6869, by text at 226.240-2480, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also submit an online consultation request any time of day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.