Careless driving, dangerous driving and criminal negligence

Region: Ontario Answer # 521

If the police lay a charge following an accident, it will likely be for careless driving, dangerous driving, or criminal negligence.

Careless driving

The offence of careless driving is committed when a driver drives without reasonable care or attention to other drivers. It is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act.


If you have been charged with careless driving, you will be convicted if the facts show that you were driving without proper care and attention. The penalty for careless driving is

  • a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000,
  • a possible six-month jail term (or both a fine and jail term),
  • up-to two years licence suspension, and
  • six demerit points.

If you are charged with careless driving, the prosecutor will often be willing to plea bargain. A plea bargain is where you make a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the charge against you, and in exchange you agree to plead guilty. For example, they might reduce a charge of careless driving to following too closely, changing lanes unsafely, or failing to yield. You should approach the prosecutor to find out whether they are willing to plea bargain.

Under section 214(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, if the offence is in an area that has been designated a “community safety zone”, or a “construction zone” under sections, 214(6) and (6.1) of the Act, the fine may be doubled to a maximum of $80-$4,000.

Careless driving causing bodily harm or death

A new careless driving offence has been added to the Highway Traffic Act, effective September 1, 2018. The new offence of careless driving causing bodily harm or death is committed when a driver drives without reasonable care or attention to other drivers and causes bodily harm or death to any person.


If you have been charged with careless driving causing bodily harm or death, the penalty is:

  • a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000,
  • a possible two-year jail term (or both a fine and jail term),
  • up-to five years licence suspension,
  • six demerit points, and
  • a mandatory driver improvement course, upon conviction

For more information, visit ontario.ca

Dangerous driving

Dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Unlike a charge under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, when a person is charged criminally, their photograph and fingerprints are taken and they will have a police file.

Dangerous driving is a hybrid offence. If convicted on summary conviction (less serious), the maximum jail time is up-to two years less a day; if convicted on indictment (more serious), the driver could face imprisonment for up-to 10 years. In addition to any other punishment, the Court may also order a licence suspension.

The penalties increase if the dangerous driving resulted in someone getting hurt or killed.

Criminal negligence

Criminal negligence is also an offence under the Criminal Code, and the same procedure of taking photographs and fingerprints applies.

An individual is criminally negligent who,

  • in doing anything, or
  • in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,

shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

For example, the offence of causing bodily harm by criminal negligence while street racing is considered an indictable offence and is punishable by a jail term of up-to 10 years. Criminal negligence causing death is punishable by a possible life imprisonment.

Again, because this is a criminal offence, a person convicted of criminal negligence will have a criminal record.

Licence suspension under the Highway Traffic Act

If you are convicted of dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing death under the Criminal Code, your licence will be suspended under the rules of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. You will  receive:

  • a one-year licence suspension for the first time you are convicted, and
  • the length of time increases substantially, up-to a lifetime ban, for subsequent convictions.

Convictions for driving offences under the Criminal Code will remain on your driver’s record for a minimum of 10 years. If you are charged with a criminal driving offence, you should contact a criminal defence lawyer for assistance. For more information on the penalties for criminal driving offences, refer to our criminal driving offences section. View the Ontario Highway Traffic Act for information on provincial offences.

Get help

If you have a criminal record because of a criminal driving offence (or any other criminal charge), and wish to erase your record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

For legal advice and representation to fight a traffic ticket, contact our preferred Highway Traffic paralegals, Nicola (Nick) Giannantonio Legal Services.

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