Commonly referred to as Florida’s catch-all exception, careless driving is a very common citation issued in Florida by law enforcement. According to recent statistics, there were over 200,000 careless driving citations issued in Florida in 2007. Many of those citations were issued for rear-end collisions. However, many of these citations were issued when an accident was not involved. Florida statute 316.1925 defines careless driving as:
Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.
Over the years law enforcement has used the careless driving statute to issue citations when they don’t think the alleged violation fits anywhere else. Referred to as the catch-all exception, officers love this statute if they can’t prove anything else and are just unhappy with the person’s driving. Remember, if followed to the letter of the law, the statute clearly states that your driving must have endangered the life, limb, or property of another. Just because you may be doing doughnuts in an empty parking lot doesn’t mean you are guilty of careless driving.
AGGRESSIVE CARELESS DRIVING
Florida Statute 316.1923 is called “agressive” carless driving. In an attempt to curb a growing problem, the Florida legislature believed it was necessary to track whether people were driving aggressively. Those initial studies fueled the need for undercover or stealth vehicles in an attemp to combat the apparent problem. Although not a chargeable citation per se, the statute deals with individuals who are alleged to have committed more than one of the following acts at the same time:
- Unsafely or improperly changing lanes
- Following too closely
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Improper Passing
- Violation of a traffic control device
Commonly issued following a crash, careless driving is almost synonymous with rear-end collisions. In most accident or crash cases, the officer is not present. They arrive at the scene, talk to the drivers and any witnesses, and then issue citation(s) if they can determine that party at fault. Under Florida law, anything you tell an officer at the time of the crash is privileged. Florida Statute 316.066 ( 7) clearly states that any statements made to law enforcement following an accident shall not be admissible into evidence at any civil or criminal trial. Therefore, anything the drivers tell law enforcement at the scene of an accident is privileged and can NOT be used against them, even when fighting a traffic ticket in court. Therefore, when you fight a ticket for careless driving in court, usually the case can only be proven through the testimony of the witnesses or other drivers. So if the person whom you hit from behind is unavailable for trial, and there are no witnesses, you have a good probability of beating the citation. Remember in Florida traffic court the officer is the prosecutor. There is NOT a municipal or state prosecutor. The police or trooper prosecutes his/her own cases. Therefore, they must depend on witnesses or drivers to help them prove the citation that they wrote. If you received a citation for careless driving following an accident call our office. If you just pay the citation then 4 points will be assessed to your driving record.
SERIOUS BODILY INJURY OR FATALITY
Several years ago the Florida legislature mandated a hearing in front of the County Court Judge when the officer believed that another driver or passenger has serious bodily injury or when the accident involved a fatality. In those circumstances the cited driver is looking at higher fines, minimum driver’s license suspension of 90 days on an SBI case, points, possible community service, and court imposed traffic school. Depending on the severity of the injury and the facts surrounding the citation, these cases can be extremely serious. Call our office at 1-800-FIGHT-IT so that we can discuss the facts of your case personally. In some instances an accident investigator may be necessary to recreate the pieces of the crash to contradict the officer’s opinion.