What Is the Difference Between Careless Driving and Careless Driving Causing Death or Injury?
A Careless Driving Conviction May Result In a Fine Between $400 and $2,000 As Well As Six Months In Jail and a Maximum Two (2) Year License Suspension. A Careless Driving Causing Death or Injury Conviction May Result In a Fine Between $2,000 and $50,000 As Well As Two Years In Jail and a Maximum Five (5) Year License Suspension.
Understanding the Differences Between Careless Driving and Careless Driving Causing Death or Injury Are Significant
The law was recently changed so to create a new offence applicable to careless driving that causes death or injury whereas previously the offence of careless driving was a potential charge that existed as with, or without, death or injury.
Interestingly, what constitutes as carelessness is the same for the new offence as the existing offence; however, as the name of the offence implies, the difference is whether a death or injury occurred. Additionally, as an offence that focuses upon the consequences of the carelessness, the offence of careless driving causing death or injury is treated much more severely, with significantly harsher penalties, than the common careless driving offence. The harsher penalties are applicable despite that the carelessness may be similar or even identical to circumstances where death or injury were uninvolved.
What Is the Difference In How Careless Driving Cases Are Treated In Law?
As above, the wrongdoing constituting careless driving and careless driving causing death or injury may be the same; however, it is the consequences of the wrongdoing, when such involves death or injury, that establishes the difference. Specifically, careless driving per section 130(1) and careless driving per section 130(3) of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 state:
130 (1) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.
Careless driving causing bodily harm or death
130 (3) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and who thereby causes bodily harm or death to any person.
Accordingly, the only difference, legally, between the two offences involves the consequences of the conduct rather than the conduct itself. Of course, some legal practitioners as well as laypeople would argue that a mistake-is-a-mistake and that a charge for quasi-criminal offences, such as offences arising from violations of the Highway Traffic Act, should be based upon the wrong rather than the result of the wrong; however, many laws do exist whereby the punishment is greater where the consequences of the wrongdoing is greater, even if the wrongdoing is the same.
Furthermore, to ensure that the courts focus upon the result rather than the wrong, it appears that the government specifically addressed this mandate by enacting a specific reminder to measure the wrongdoing similarly as per section 130(5) and to apply punishments more harshly when death or injury occurs per section 130(6) whereas it is stated:
Deemed lack of reasonable consideration
Sentencing — aggravating factor
130 (6) A court that imposes a sentence for an offence under subsection (3) shall consider as an aggravating factor evidence that bodily harm or death was caused to a person who, in the circumstances of the offence, was vulnerable to a lack of due care and attention or reasonable consideration by a driver, including by virtue of the fact that the person was a pedestrian, cyclist or person working upon the highway.
Many people, including legal scholars, may perceive and argue that law that treats the same mistake or wrongdoing more harshly depending on the consequences is an unfair law. For example, two drivers who make the mistake of driving while fatigued, being a careless act, and fall asleep while driving in the same place at the same time may both go off the road. If one vehicle merely goes off the road without causing a death or injury, perhaps resulting only in some damage to the vehicle or trees or a fence, that driver may be charged under section 130(1); however, if the other vehicle goes off the road and kills a pedestrian, that driver may be charged under section 130(3). Of course, opinions do vary; and accordingly, many people will indeed view that the law should treat greater consequences with greater penalties; and with the introduction of section 130(3) as the careless driving causing death or injury charge, indeed the law now does so.
How Much Harsher Are Penalties For Careless Driving Causing Death or Injury
As above, section 130(5) and section 130(6) of the Highway Traffic Act prescribe that careless driving involving death or injury requires harsher penalties. The difference in the range of penalties can be found found by comparing section 130(2) as the penalties applicable to a general careless driving conviction per section 130(1) and section 130(4) as the penalties applicable to a careless driving causing death or injury conviction per section 130(3) of the Highway Traffic Act. Specifically, the sections state:
130 (2) On conviction under subsection (1), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years.
130 (4) On conviction under subsection (3), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years.
Furthermore, the applicable fine is also subject to a victim surcharge and the driver also receives six (6) demerit points as well as the likelihood of significant increase to insurance rates.
Actual Case Review
What Is An Example of Penalties For Careless Driving Causing Death or Injury?
In the matter of R. v. Kreyger, 2020 ONCJ 424, the driver, Ms. Kreyger, made the mistake of failing to stop at a stop sign. Mr. Kreyger was familiar with the road and the placement of the sign as such was upon a roadway driven almost daily by Ms. Kreyger. Additionally, road conditions were good, and there appeared little, if anything, other than a mind that was elsewhere that contributed to the failure to stop at the stop sign. Unfortunately, the mistake was tragic resulting in the death of another driver; and subsequently, Ms. Kreyger pled guilty to a charge of careless driving causing death or injury per section 130(3) of the Highway Traffic Act.
In the Kreyger case, following a joint submission, whereas a joint submission is a penalty request that is mutually agreed to by the prosecution and the accused person, the court accepted the joint submission as requested and sentenced Ms. Kreyger as follows:
 I now sentence Ms Kreyger, as per the joint submission from counsel, to the following:
(a) A fine of $2,000.
(b) A four year driving prohibition with no exceptions.
(c) Probation for two years with the following conditions:
(i) You shall not commit the same or any related or similar offence, or any offence under a statute of Canada or Ontario or any other province of Canada that is punishable by imprisonment;
(ii) You shall appear before the court as and when required.
(iii) You shall not operate or have care or control of a motor vehicle.
(iv) You shall not contact or communicate directly or indirectly with Jason Satchell’s immediate family members except with their express consent.
(v) You shall complete 50 hours of community service at a rate of not less than 5 hours per month commencing 1 October 2020.
Interestingly, as discussed above, if Ms. Kreyger arrived at the intersection just a few seconds before, or a few seconds after, thereby traveling through the intersection without accident; yet was observed doing so by a police officer, the likely charge would be failure to obey a stop sign, a relatively minor offence.
The addition of the offence of careless driving causing death or injury, and the substantial difference in potential penalties applicable to those charged with such an offence, raises some controversy within legal circles. Some philosophical theorists of law will argue that it is wrongful conduct rather than unfortunate consequences that deserves punishment and deterence; and accordingly, the harsher penalties applicable to a charge of careless driving causing death or injury is unfair or unjust when compared to the penalties applicable for the same or similar carelessness where the results are absent of death or injury. Of course, opinions vary while the law is the law; and for now, the law is structured to penalize more harshly those drivers whose conduct causes greater consequences.
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The topic of careless driving is a very deep legal subject with many subtopics that can only be lightly touched upon within a webpage article. Legal practitioners and scholars could spend hours discussing the various twists and turns that apply to the principles and concepts mentioned here.