Careless Driving Offence

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic discusses the traffic offence, careless driving.

To obtain a conviction for careless driving, the Crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not use the care and attention or give to other persons using the road the consideration that a reasonable driver would have given in the circumstances. In other words, if your driving was less than one would expect from a reasonable driver, you may be convicted of careless driving.

Careless driving is a “strict liability offence” and the standard of proof for careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act is easier for the Crown to prove. Strict liability means there is no element of criminal intent. The Crown prosecutor must only prove you did the act that is dangerous to the public. In your defence, you must prove that your driving did not amount to careless driving in the circumstances or that you were acting with due diligence at the time. For example, if you were trying to light a cigarette and you swerved onto the wrong side of the road, the Court would have to decide whether a reasonable driver would swerve out of his lane of traffic to light a cigarette. If the Court decides that a reasonable driver would not have swerved, then you may be convicted of careless driving.

Careless driving is an offence under the Alberta Highway Traffic Act. The maximum sentence for careless driving is a (fine varies as per circumstance and subsection) fine or in default of payment 6 months in jail, or both. In addition, 6 driver demerit points are imposed against your licence. A person convicted of careless driving may also have their driver’s license suspended up to 3 months. Driver’s license suspensions are governed by the Motor Vehicle Administration Act of Alberta. Careless driving can also result in a jail sentence where there are extreme circumstances because of a lack of care, attention or consideration in driving.

Once your license is suspended, you must not operate a motor vehicle until you have your license reinstated. Driving while your license is suspended or failing to reinstate your license before you resume driving is an offence that can be punishable upon indictment to a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years. Contact your local Registry Office to find out how to reinstate your licence and the cost. Be sure that you have fulfilled all conditions imposed on reinstating your licence. For example, conditions may have been for drug counselling, driver training or a physical examination.