Careless driving in Ontario: its definition, its penalties, and the nature of the charge.

Careless Driving is a serious offence under the Highway Traffic Act. It is defined in section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act and reads as follows:

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.

careless driving highway traffic act charged

Further to s. 214(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, if the offence is in an area that has been designated a “community safety zone” or a “construction zone” under sections, 214(6) and (6.1) of the Highway Traffic Act, the fine can be doubled to a maximum of $800.00-$4,000.00.

What sort of driving and activities are covered by the charge of careless driving?

The law is not exhaustive and Careless Driving can manifest itself in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Texting and driving,
  • Failing to pass safely,
  • Failing to maintain safe speeds,
  • Failing to pay attention to the road,
  • Failing to pass other vehicles safely,
  • Failing to pay attention to cyclists or other drivers, and
  • Failing to take proper care in any other situation while driving.

Is Careless Driving a Criminal Offence?

No. Careless Driving is a Highway Traffic Act offence, and as such is governed by the Provincial Offences Act not the Criminal Code.

It’s Not Criminal So I Can’t Go to Jail, Right?

Wrong. Depending on the circumstances, you can receive one or more of the following

  • Insurance increases,
  • Up to six months in jail,
  • Loss of insurance coverage,
  • A license suspension of up to two years,
  • A three-year driving record from the date of conviction,
  • Being labelled a “High Risk Driver” which requires costly high-risk auto insurance,
  • Six demerit points (at 15 demerit points you can lose your license for 30 days in addition to any other penalties), and
  • A fine ranging from $400.00 – $2,000.00 (or $800.00-$4,000.00 if it’s a community safety zone or construction zone).

How Do I Defend Myself?

A Careless Driving charge, like a criminal charge, entitles you to due process and a trial in court before a Justice of the Peace. Being charged is not the end of the legal process – it’s only the beginning.

You can attempt to convince the Crown to withdraw the charge. If unsuccessful, you can try to persuade the Crown to reduce the charge to a lesser charge in exchange to you pleading guilty to the lower charge.

If you cannot resolve the matter with the Crown before the trial, you have the right to try your case in court. At your trial, you can:

  • Call evidence,
  • Cross examine civilian witnesses,
  • Cross examine police witnesses, and
  • Research case law and make legal submissions

The odds of success with any of these options are much higher with the insight and guidance of experienced counsel. If the Crown is seeking jail time, you need your vehicle for your employment, or you can’t afford years of exorbitant insurance increases – then it is strongly suggested that you retain competent legal counsel.

Discuss your case with a lawyer experienced in careless driving charges under the Highway Traffic Act. 

The lawyers in our firm offer experienced legal representation for serious traffic offences like careless driving.  You can reach us 24 hours a day by calling (416) 999-9389 or complete a consultation form here