What is Careless Driving in Ontario?

Careless driving is one of the most common charges client’s face when they come to OTD Legal for advice. Legal implications and what constitutes careless driving under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (section 130) are often misunderstood. 


Understanding Careless Driving Under the Highway Traffic Act

The Legal Definition

Careless driving is defined by behavior on the road that demonstrates a lack of due care and attention to the operation of a motor vehicle. This standard is universally expected of all drivers. When a police officer perceives that a driver has deviated from this standard by not driving carefully or paying sufficient attention, a charge of careless driving may be issued.

The “Umbrella” Nature of the Charge

Careless driving is often described as an “umbrella charge” due to its broad application covering various driving behaviors. This can include, but is not limited to, road rage, distracted driving, and even falling asleep at the wheel. It’s a versatile charge used by law enforcement to address a wide array of unsafe driving practices without the need to pinpoint a specific action within the Highway Traffic Act.


Careless Driving and Serious Outcomes

Causing Injury or Death

A more severe aspect of careless driving is outlined in subsection 3 of section 130, which relates to incidents causing bodily harm or death. This elevates the charge significantly, reflecting the serious consequences of the driver’s actions. It’s critical to understand that this can apply not only to injuries inflicted on others but also to the driver themselves or passengers within the vehicle.


Misconceptions about Careless Driving Charges

Many people mistakenly believe that a charge of careless driving causing injury only pertains to harm caused to individuals in other vehicles. However, the law also considers injuries to the driver and passengers in the offending vehicle. This comprehensive view ensures that all potential harm resulting from careless driving is appropriately addressed.


Careless driving in Ontario encompasses a wide range of driving behaviors that fail to meet the required standard of care and attention. With the potential for serious charges in cases of injury or death, understanding the implications of careless driving is crucial for all drivers. If you’ve been charged with careless driving, seeking legal support is an important step in navigating the complexities of traffic law and protecting your rights on the road.


At OTD Legal, we specialize in defending against careless driving charges, offering experienced advice and representation to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

Video Transcription:

I’m going to talk to you today about careless driving. It is probably one of the most common charges that I would see in this particular firm. And it is a, it’s common in terms of the, the phraseology and what the public is aware of. You can ask most of your friends and family and whomever about careless driving and they’ll all have a different answer about that sort of thing.

So what I’d like to do for you today is clarify probably the most important question and that is what is careless driving in Ontario? The best way to describe section 130, careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario is to basically talk to you about what sort of driving occurred that manifested in such a charge.

So, some of the wordage or verbiage when you hear careless driving is that someone or some driver was driving without due care and attention. That is a standard by we by every driver. We all must subscribe to a standard of how we drive our automobiles, okay? And when a police officer believes that you’re not…

following that standard and you’re not driving with the due care to be operating that motor vehicle and you’re not paying the requisite attention, you will in fact see a charge of careless driving. Okay. I would best describe Careless driving. And I have, I’ve, I’ve many occasions for many clients, I would describe careless driving as sort of a blanket charge. I’ve used the word umbrella charge and I’ve used that to sort of describe in a very rational way why we see so much of that charge. And the reason why I’ll use the word umbrella is that, that umbrella for careless driving captures all kinds of behaviors, which would include accidents, which would include things like road rage, distracted driving, or another one we can talk a bit about is falling asleep.

Many clients don’t understand that falling asleep behind the wheel is in fact squarely falling in to what would be considered careless driving. But when there are accidents and when these types of things happen most officers these days don’t have the time to go through the act and pick out the exact behavior that fits into the Highway Traffic Act.

What they tend to gravitate to is a charge of careless driving, which again covers all possible things that may have happened out there while you were driving. There’s another section which is also important, which is a relatively new section under the Act, and that’s subsection 3. So it’s careless driving, section 130, subsection 3, and that particular section covers causing injury or death.

Okay, obviously much more significant. But we can talk about those injuries in a case like that, and I’ve had several just recently. And… You could injure another person, and that’s what most people think. You know, you’re in your car, you’re charged with causing bodily injury because of this careless driving, and the automatic assumption by these defendants is that well, I’ve injured someone in another car, and that’s not quite accurate.

What the officers are observing are they’re looking for injuries on yourself, so it could be the driver, and you’re gonna see a charge that serious. Because you’ve had some injuries, you could also see other persons, other passengers that you’re responsible for if they were hurt as a result of that driving, you will see the various serious, serious section of section 130 sub three.

Okay. And then, of course, everyone believes, well, if I’ve hurt some other vehicle and yes, that’s obvious. If someone in another vehicle was hurt, and it’s obvious because of that driving, then in fact, you would see that very serious charge of careless driving.

Related Videos

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Ticket On Time

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Ticket On Time

What Happens If You Don't Pay Your Ticket On Time What happens if you don't pay your ticket on time? You have 15 days, once you've received a ticket, to respond to that ticket and pay that ticket. If you do not do that in 15 days, you will be convicted. Now that...

Stunt Driving: Fines, Penalties and Consequences

Stunt Driving: Fines, Penalties and Consequences

Stunt Driving: Fines, Penalties and Consequences Stunt driving. Fines, penalties and consequences. The best way to sort out in your mind what's happening if you're charged with stunt driving is to realize there's really two layers to this, okay? The first layer is, I...