New careless driving penalty introduced for Northern Ireland motorists
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The measure has been announced by the Department for Infrastructure as an additional enforcement tool to assist police in tackling a major cause of deaths and serious injuries on the province’s roads.
It follows extensive consultation with the public and criminal justice bodies.
A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “In 2021, 486 people were sadly killed or seriously injured as a result of collisions on our roads where the cause has been attributed to a careless driving causation factor.
"This reinforces the responsibility that we all have to drive carefully so that such life-changing and devastating consequences are avoided. The new fixed penalty will improve the administrative process for the existing careless driving offence by providing proportionate justice for low level careless driving offences without the need for court proceedings, saving public money and time.
“Drivers who commit more serious offences will continue to be dealt with before the courts and will be subject to substantial penalties.
"The option to go to court is still retained should the offender wish to contest the offence. The maximum penalty which applies on conviction in court remains the same i.e. a fine of up to £5,000, between three and nine penalty points to the driver’s licence and, at the discretion of the court, potential disqualification.”
The new arrangements introduced today (Monday. May 15) will also allow the PSNI to offer remedial training to careless drivers as an alternative to the fixed penalty notice.
The aim is to influence the future decisions of drivers, encouraging more careful driving and improved personal responsibility. Costs associated with the course will be met by the offender as an alternative to receiving penalty points and paying the fixed penalty notice fine.
Dr Chris Hughes, Department for Infrastructure director for Road Safety, said: “The introduction of a new fixed penalty for careless driving is an important intervention. It has the potential to make enforcement of this offence more effective and reduce the instances of careless driving in the future.
"It also sends a clear message to drivers that the risk of being caught and punished for a careless driving offence has now increased. A less bureaucratic system for lower level offending means police can spend less time preparing case files for court and more time on the road observing driving behaviours.”
PSNI Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson commented: “We welcome the introduction of this new legislation which underlines our road safety messaging. Driving without care and attention, is one of the most significant causes of the most serious collisions in which people are killed and seriously injured on our roads.
"Where appropriate, the new penalty will give drivers the opportunity to benefit from remedial training. The training will not only highlight the catastrophic impact that can result from careless driving, but critically, it will give drivers the opportunity to educate themselves and make our roads safer for everyone.”