Careless driving in Victoria

Careless driving in Victoria under Section 65 of the Road Safety Act makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle carelessly on any road.

Since “carelessly” is not defined, the police have considerable discretion whether to charge you with an offence of careless driving. As a result it is often an additional charge following a drink or drug driving offence.

Common examples of careless driving include:

  • Driving too fast in conditions of poor visibility or on slippery roads
  • Not paying attention to other road users or traffic
  • Following too closely to another vehicle
  • Failing to stay within your own traffic lane or maintain a straight line
  • Any of the above (or other) resulting in a collision

You can be charged with careless driving even in the absence of an accident. Police are more likely to believe the evidence supports a careless driving charge when a collision occurred.

The Penalty

There is no mandatory licence loss for careless driving and typically being found guilty of careless driving will result in a conviction and a fine, although a period of disqualification is available and possible.

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.

Notably this offence also carries 3 demerit points.

Can I defend the charge?

Although careless driving is considered a lesser offence than dangerous driving, if you do not prepare with a sufficient defence and/or explanation for your behaviour, a Magistrate may believe you could be a further risk to individuals on the road.

If you have been charged with careless driving and your driver’s licence is important to you, don’t go to court unrepresented. This offence is one of the few where licence loss is possible to avoid. Consider how much it will cost you to be suspended from driving for 6 – 12 months.

Careless driving does not attract a mandatory minimum period off the road. However this does not prevent a Magistrate from disqualifying you from driving if they do not believe you have provided a reasonable explanation for your behaviour.