Causing Death by Careless Driving

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The defendant, a young man aged 17 at the time of the accident and only one month into passing his driving test, caused the death of his two best friends by driving at speed on a poorly lit road and where there were large puddles of water.

The defendant had met with a group of friends at a town centre. They went to a retail park where they made the decision to go for a drive. There were four cars in the group. The defendant was driving one of these vehicles.  At one point the speed of his vehicle hit 66 miles per hour and it was also raining. The speed limit for the road was 40. Whilst attempting to negotiate an S bend, his vehicle hit a large puddle, causing his vehicle to fish-tail. He could not regain control of the vehicle, which crossed the carriageway and collided with a wall. His two friends were killed instantly. The driver went into a coma but subsequently regained consciousness.

The police expert concluded that if it were not for vehicle's speed, the driver would have been in a position to avoid the accident. An obvious point perhaps.

The driver was sentenced to 20 months detention upon pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving. He showed full remorse, had been injured himself and had not been in trouble before. Although it is not clear from the case summary, one imagines too that he fully co-operated with the police investigation, once he came out of his coma.

The defendant may have been expecting a sentence of detention. However, he felt that a sentence of 20 months was excessive. He appealed the decision to send him into detention for 20 months ad his case reached the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded that it was not excessive, finding that his driving was bordering on the dangerous and a sentence of such length was entirely appropriate.

In our experience, the dividing line between careless and dangerous driving can be grey, rather than crystal clear and expert advice is key. Drivers do sometimes make mistakes with perhaps disastrous consequences. It could be a momentary lapse in concentration or in this case an ill-judged, ill-thought out manoeuvre. The test is how bad the driving was. Did it fall far below the expected standard, or just below it? In this case, the defendant was perhaps fortunate not to be charged with the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving. The Court of Appeal did acknowledge that the driver was unlikely to find himself in the same situation again but there is no doubt that this young man wishes he could turn back the clock.

Daniel Scognamiglio
Partner and Team Leader - Travel Team

For further information, please contact Blake Lapthorn solicitors' Travel team by telephone 023 8085 7423 or email

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