‘Careless’ driving

From the Daily Mail

A ‘callous’ barmaid hatched a cover story with her uninsured boyfriend to ‘save their own skins’ moments after he killed a cyclist in her car. Lauren Mellish, 22, was in the vehicle with Alex Dexter, 23, when he overtook three vehicles in the powerful Ford Puma before losing control and ploughing into Steven Rodway, 38. As the married father-of-two lay dying under the car, the couple were seen whispering together to concoct a story involving someone else taking it on a test drive.

Dexter, who only held a provisional licence when he got behind the wheel of her car, looked visibly shaken as he was given a 15-month term after admitting three charges including causing death by careless driving and causing death while uninsured. Speaking after the hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court, Essex, Inspector Keith Whiting said: ‘They got out of the car and made up a story to cover themselves without offering Steven any assistance.

‘I have never known such callous actions at the scene of a fatal collision.’ Mr Rodway’s widow Marrissa, 35, said she now lived for their children Harriet, six, and Erica, two, but always felt lonely without her ‘soul mate’. She added: ‘Alex Dexter and Lauren Mellish have turned our lives upside down and I know I will find it hard to forgive them for the heartache they have caused our family.’

Dexter, an engineer, was seen overtaking three cars before losing control as he tried to avoid a transit van on June 13 last year. The vehicle rolled down the road in Stapleford Tawney, near Epping, before coming to rest on its wheels on top of insurance worker Mr Rodway, who lived in Hutton, near Brentwood, and was out on a Sunday afternoon bike ride.

After climbing out of the overturned car, Dexter told a fireman that ‘another male had been driving the car’ and had run off. Mellish also lied, saying that a man she knew only as ‘Matt’ had been test driving the car and then escaped after the accident. Witnesses described seeing the pair – who have since split up – ‘whispering to each other’, adding they ‘didn’t seem concerned about the cyclist’. The false story led to police launching a major search operation for the fictional driver, including calling out sniffer dogs which were sent into surrounding fields.

Both defendants refused to comment during police interviews and it was only a fortnight later that Mellish finally said Dexter had been driving. Both admitted the charges at a hearing last month. They were also banned from driving for three years yesterday.

Setting aside the extraordinary callousness of these two individuals, who concocted a story about an imaginary driver that had run away while the man they killed lay dying under their vehicle (why were they not additionally charged with wasting police time?), what astonishes me about this story is the way in which the driver was charged merely with ‘careless’ driving.

Is an uninsured driver, who only holds a provisional licence, really only being ‘careless’ if he is overtaking three vehicles at such a speed that, in swerving to avoid an oncoming van, his vehicle rolls down the road and ends up crushing someone to death?

If this isn’t classified as ‘dangerous’ driving, what is?

Dropping an axe onto someone’s foot is ‘careless’. Waving an axe around in a crowded room most certainly is not – it is dangerous. Yet the rules seem to be rather different for the operation of motor vehicles.

It’s not hard to find other examples in which people have caused death through what would – ordinarily – be considered extraordinarily dangerous behaviour (an easy way is to use the ‘causing death by careless driving’ tag on the road.cc site, who should be commended for paying close attention to this issue), yet the CPS have only seen fit to charge them with ‘careless’ driving. Undoubtedly this is partly a consequence of an imperative to secure a conviction, which is more likely on the lesser charge, but frankly, if we look at the CPS guidelines, it is very hard to understand why drivers like Alex Dexter are not being charged appropriately –

What is ‘Dangerous driving’?

A person drives dangerously when:

  • the way they drive falls far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver; and
  • it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

Some typical examples from court cases of dangerous driving are:

  • racing, going too fast, or driving aggressively;
  • ignoring traffic lights, road signs or warnings from passengers;
  • overtaking dangerously;

That describes his driving in a nutshell; and surely it would do so to any sane and objective observer. By contrast –

What is ‘Careless or inconsiderate driving’?

A person drives carelessly or inconsiderately when the way they drive falls below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver.

Some examples of careless driving are:

  • overtaking on the inside;
  • driving too close to another vehicle;
  • driving through a red light by mistake;
  • turning into the path of another vehicle;
  • the driver being avoidably distracted by tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette etc.

Examples of inconsiderate driving include:

  • flashing lights to force other drivers to give way;
  • misusing lanes to gain advantage over other drivers;
  • unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane;
  • unnecessarily slow driving or braking;
  • dazzling other drivers with un-dipped headlights.

None of these examples is appropriately analogous to Dexter’s driving, in any way shape or form. So why was he charged with ‘careless’ driving?

I leave you with an example of Robert de Niro and friends engaging in what our judiciary would consider ‘inconsiderate’ driving – just look at the use of flashing lights to force other drivers to give way, and the misuse of lanes to gain advantage over other drivers.

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Dangerous driving, Road safety, Speeding, The judiciary. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘Careless’ driving

  1. elliot says:

    great post – excellent summary of the law. thanks. i like to think there’s a lot more that the CPS considered, which we don’t know about, that formed the basis of their decision.

  2. Joe Dunckley says:

    One day somebody’s going to be charged with “careless driving” and they’re going to get themselves a clever lawyer who gets them off on the grounds that their driving does not match that description of “careless”…

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