Victoria Legal Aid

Careless driving

The police may charge you with careless driving if they believe that you did not drive with the care and attention of a reasonable driver.

If police think a driver caused an accident, they will often charge them with careless driving. However, you can still be charged with careless driving even if you did not cause an accident.

Going to court for a careless driving offence

If you have a future court date, you may be eligible to get help to prepare before you go to court. You can request help onlineExternal Link .

For more information about how to prepare for the court hearing see Going to court for traffic offences.

Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case. Look at the ‘Details of the charge’ in your charge sheet to see what the police officer wrote about your offence. The magistrate refers to this in the courtroom.

The prosecution has to prove that you were not driving carefully on a road in a way that was that was not careful and prudent (sensible) in the circumstances.

Most accidents will be careless driving unless you were hit from the rear. Examples are:

  • failing to keep a lookout
  • not keeping a proper distance
  • excessive speed in the conditions.

You may still be guilty of careless driving even if there was no accident.

What are my options if I have to go to court?

Plead guilty

If you agree that you broke the law, you should tell the court that you are pleading guilty. During the court hearing, the prosecutor will read out the statement of alleged facts. The magistrate will find you guilty and give you a penalty.

If you plead guilty the magistrate treats this as a sign that you are co-operating and may give you a less severe penalty.

For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading guilty.

Plead not guilty

If you believe that you did not break the law, or you disagree with what is in the statement of alleged facts, you must tell the prosecutor before your court date that you plan to plead not guilty. They will hold a summary case conference with you before your case is heard in court. If you still want to plead not guilty after the conference, tell the magistrate. The magistrate will adjourn (put off) your case for another day.

You will come back to court for a contested hearing. When you come back the magistrate listens to evidence from you and the police before making a decision. You should have a defence. Saying that you did not know you were breaking the law is not a good enough defence.

If you are pleading not guilty, get legal advice before the contested hearing.

For more information visit our page Going to court – pleading not guilty.

Possible defences

It is a defence if you were:

  • not the driver
  • driving with a reasonable amount of care.

Can I adjourn my hearing?

You can ask the magistrate to adjourn (put off) your case if you have a good reason. For example, to get a lawyer.

If you have not adjourned your case before and you are on summons, you may be able to get an adjournment without going into the courtroom. When you arrive at court, go to the counter and tell the staff you want an adjournment.

What are the penalties if I am found guilty?

Demerit points

VicRoads adds three demerit points to your licence from the date the offence happened, not the date you went to court. The magistrate cannot change this.


The magistrate may give you a fine. You can get:

  • up to 12 penalty units – first offence of careless driving
  • up to 25 penalty units – if this is not your first careless driving offence.

You should tell the magistrate about your income and things you have to pay for, and whether you support a family.

If you get a fine you can pay it straight away at court. If you do not pay the fine straight away, Fines VictoriaExternal Link will send you a Court fine collection statement. This will tell you how much you owe and when the fine is due.

You can ask Fines Victoria for a payment plan if you cannot afford to pay the fine in one payment.

If you do not pay the fine when it is due, Fines Victoria may increase the fine. The court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Losing your licence

The magistrate may cancel or suspend your licence for a certain period of time. You must not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. There are very serious penalties for driving while suspended.

Other penalties

The magistrate may also place you on an undertaking to behave well for a certain amount of time.

What else might happen if I am found guilty?

What happens in court goes on your criminal recordExternal Link . If your careless driving caused an accident, the magistrate can make you pay compensation for any damage to someone’s property.

See Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.

Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?

Yes. If you do not agree with the decision you can appeal to the County Court. You have 28 days to do this. Get legal advice before you decide. You could get a higher penalty.

Other support

For more information, support and referrals, visit:

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 01 November 2023

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