Is Careless Driving a Criminal Offense in Ontario?

In short, careless driving is not a criminal charge in Ontario. 

It is a provincial offence under the Highway Traffic Act, section 130. This means it is not governed by the Criminal Code of Canada, which sets out criminal offences and penalties. 

Instead, a careless driving charge in Ontario is treated as a traffic offence, punishable by fines and demerit points, but does not result in a criminal record.

According to the HTA, careless driving can be defined as

“operating a motor vehicle without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.” 

Examples of careless driving in Ontario:

  • texting while driving;
  • following too close;
  • failing to yield the right of way to another vehicle or pedestrian;
  • failing to signal when changing lanes or turning;
  • driving distracted etc.

While these behaviours can be dangerous and result in accidents, they do not rise to criminal conduct. 

It’s worth noting that in some cases, careless driving can lead to more serious charges if the behaviour is particularly reckless or causes harm to others.

For example, if a person is injured or killed as a result of careless driving, the driver may be charged with dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing death, which are criminal offences with more severe penalties. There is a significant difference between careless and dangerous driving in Ontario in terms of fines and legal consequences.

If you are charged with careless driving in Ontario, take the offence seriously and seek legal advice. You may face severe consequences, including fines (up to $2,000), 6 demerit points, licence suspension of up to 2 years, jail time of up to 6 months and increased insurance rates for the next 6 years. 

That’s why we recommend consulting with a traffic ticket lawyer to understand the charges against you and to check your legal options. 

Your lawyer can review the case and provide guidance on the best course of action, which may include fighting the charge or negotiating a plea deal.

Thank you!