Last week saw 97 year old Prince Phillip involved in a motor collision-the media has been quick to suggest that the Prince may face prosecution for careless driving, otherwise known as driving without due care and attention. But what does driving without due care actually mean? And how can you ensure that you do not fall foul of the required driving standard?

In Prince Phillip’s case it is alleged that the Prince had been ‘dazzled’ by sunlight which caused him to lose control of the Land Rover he was driving. The distressing images of the Prince’s damaged vehicle laying on its side caused disbelief that no lasting injuries were caused to any of the involved parties.

The offence of driving without due care is committed when a person’s driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. Where there is an accident, there can be a presumption of careless driving against the driver.

As an offence encompassing a wide-range of offending behaviour, drivers are often surprised when they are charged with a due care offence be it a serious collision or a minor scratch left on another vehicle, or perhaps even where there has been no damage caused at all.

At the initial investigation stage, it is important to present your account of the situation. At this stage, depending on the severity of the incident, the Police may consider an out of Court disposal method removing the need for the matter ever proceed to Court. This may be by offering a fixed penalty of 3 penalty points and a fine of £100 or perhaps attendance at a Driver Awareness Course. A legal representative present for a Police interview will seek to persuade the Police Officer to consider an out of Court disposal method on behalf of the driver.

Where a case is deemed too serious to be dealt with by way of an out of Court disposal or where a driver’s previous endorsement prevents them from being able to accept a fixed penalty, the matter will be brought before the Court. The case will also be brought before Court if an accused driver wishes to contest the allegation and take the matter to trial. Where it is established by a Court that a driver has fallen below the required standard, the offence is made out. The offending driver then faces a penalty of between three to nine penalty points, or even a disqualification, as well as a fine of up to 175% of their weekly income.

In assessing the appropriate sentence, a Court will assess the culpability of the driver as well as the harm caused. In doing so the Court will consider a number of factors including, but not limited to: excessive speed; tiredness or driving whilst unwell; driving contrary to medical advice, a high level of traffic or pedestrians in the area and carrying out other tasks whilst driving. Equally the Court is able to take into account any mitigating factors that indicate lesser harm or lower culpability.

A careless driving offence could also call into question the fitness to hold a licence and lead to a referral to DVLA for a medical assessment and practical driving test. Elderly drivers in particular are vulnerable to having their cognitive or physical driving capabilities called into question in light of an allegation of driving without due care. At times, where a driver’s fitness to hold a licence is called into question they may be asked to voluntarily surrender their licence as an alternative to prosecution.

For more detailed advice on driving without due care and attention or to talk to our expert legal team, contact 0800 046 3066 for free initial legal advice.