By Jonathan van Ekelenburg

One of the more serious offences that a driver in Ontario can be charged with is careless driving, which is best defined as an act of negligence on the part of the driver, i.e. doing something on the road that no reasonable person would do. This can include lots of possible actions (and is, indeed, somewhat of a vague charge), but ultimately comes down to driving without care for others on the road or without due care and attention. The term “reckless driving” means the same thing.

Because the charge of careless driving is something of a “catch-all” charge, it can encompass a lot of different actions on the road. It is up to the officer to decide whether or not to charge you with careless driving based on their assessment of the situation and how dangerous it was.

There are two ways to be charged with careless driving, split up into “Part 1” and “Part 3.” Part 1 charges are given when the officer decides right away at the roadside to charge you with careless driving. As with all Part 1 charges, you have the option to either just pay the ticket and accept the consequences, being 6 demerit points and a major conviction on your record (which will hike up your insurance rates), or you can request a trial date to fight the charge.

Part 3 charges are given for more serious situations involving careless driving, such as an accident resulting in death. You don’t have the option to just pay the ticket in this case and must appear to plead your case, even if it’s just to plead guilty. Part 3 charges are very serious and can carry jail-time, fines of up to $5,000 and license suspensions.

The most common situation in which someone receives a charge of careless driving is in an accident, but not all accidents result in a charge of careless driving. There must be other acts of negligence or errors suggesting inattention that occurred in order for a charge of careless driving to be placed, and you don’t need to have been in an accident to get charged with careless driving. Sometimes the accident might just be considered an aggravating factor to the careless driving charge.

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