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Negligent Driving VIC

You may have a defence if you receive an infraction notice for careless driving

If you are involved in a traffic accident and the police decide the accident was your fault, there is a good chance you will be issued an infraction notice. If the collision was not caused some other traffic violation, like running a red light or drink driving, the police may decide that you committed the offence of careless driving. A cynic might say that the police settle on careless driving as a fallback when they cannot find any other violation.

Careless driving is one of the most common traffic violations in Victoria. If you receive a careless driving infraction notice, you may have a defence.

What is careless driving?

Section 65 of the Road Safety Act in makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle carelessly on a highway in Victoria. A “highway” is any road that is open to the public, any area that divides the lanes of the road, and any area that is adjacent to the road (such as parking areas, bicycle lanes, and footpaths).

“Carelessly” is not defined. That gives the police considerable discretion when they decide whether to accuse you of the offence. Common examples of careless driving include:

  • Driving too fast in conditions of poor visibility or on slippery roads
  • Not paying attention to traffic
  • Following too close to another vehicle
  • Swerving for no reason within your own traffic lane

You can be charged with careless driving even in the absence of an accident, but the police are more likely to believe the evidence supports a careless driving accusation if you collided with another vehicle.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for careless driving in Victoria is 12 penalty units for a first offence and 25 penalty units for a subsequent offence. The current value of one penalty unit is $147.61. The offence also carries 3 demerit points.

Defences

Just because an officer thinks your driving was careless, a magistrate might not agree. It might be worth contesting the charge if you have a reasonable explanation for your driving behaviour.

For instance, if you were driving at the same speed other drivers were traveling, you might argue that bad road conditions were not so obvious that they created a need to drive at a slower speed. Perhaps collision occurred because the driver in front of you braked suddenly and unexpectedly, not because you were inattentive. Perhaps you swerved to avoid a road hazard the officer did not see.

If you have a legitimate explanation for an accident or unusual driving behaviour that minimizes your fault, you should talk to a lawyer about contesting your careless driving infraction notice.

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