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Florida's Careless Driving Law And What It Means

Florida Statute 316.1925, Careless Driving

Information provided by Eric J. Dirga, P.A., Orlando - Statewide Service

Last Updated: November 5, 2015

Below is a breakdown of section 316.1925, Florida Statutes - Careless Driving. It is important to understand that if adjudicated guilty of committing any infraction involving an accident an additional point will be assessed on top of the normal points added for that infraction.

Careless Driving

316.1925 Careless driving.— (1) 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.

The statute itself is quite short. There is a lot packed in it however so lets break it down. The first thing to know is that for every chapter in the Florida Statutes there is usually a set of definitions. These definitions override any other definition assigned to a word. If there is no specific definition listed at the beginning of the chapter or within the section itself then we can refer to common dictionaries. The definitions for chapter 316 starts off this way:

316.003 Definitions.—The following words and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section, except where the context otherwise requires:

Except where the context otherwise requires? Get ready, because the law seems to be purposefully vague.

A Vehicle

It is important to note that the statute says vehicle rather than motor vehicle because each is defined differently:

316.003 Definitions.
. . .
(21) MOTOR VEHICLE.—Except when used in s. 316.1001, a self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped. For purposes of s. 316.1001, “motor vehicle” has the same meaning as in s. 320.01(1)(a).
. . .
(75) VEHICLE.—Every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

The term Vehicle is much more incompassing. It includes those vehicles specifically excluded under Motor Vehicles.

A Street Or Highway

(53) STREET OR HIGHWAY.—
(a) The entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic;
(b) The entire width between the boundary lines of any privately owned way or place used for vehicular travel by the owner and those having express or implied permission from the owner, but not by other persons, or any limited access road owned or controlled by a special district, whenever, by written agreement entered into under s. 316.006(2)(b) or (3)(b), a county or municipality exercises traffic control jurisdiction over said way or place;
(c) Any area, such as a runway, taxiway, ramp, clear zone, or parking lot, within the boundary of any airport owned by the state, a county, a municipality, or a political subdivision, which area is used for vehicular traffic but which is not open for vehicular operation by the general public; or
(d) Any way or place used for vehicular traffic on a controlled access basis within a mobile home park recreation district which has been created under s. 418.30 and the recreational facilities of which district are open to the general public.

The main thing to take away from this is that law enforcement has jurisdiction to issue you a citation for careless driving (or any other infraction) on private property.

Careful And Prudent Manner

There is no definition in the statutes for this phrase. We could list out all the definitions from general dictionaries here but we would come to the same conclusion. The meaning of these words will vary with the person that is trying to define them. This is where law enforcement can determine fault by deciding you were not driving in a careful and prudent manner. It is also what a hearing officer or judge can hang their hat on when deciding these cases.

And All Other Attendant Circumstances

The coup de grâce! I have argued that this bit of vaguness means anything including another driver's lack of careful and prudent driving manners. This is the ultimate, all incompassing, hole in the statute that allows anyone to be cited for being at fault in an accident.

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All is not lost if you were cited for Vareless Driving. Despite the wide-openess of the statute, this citation is dismissed more often than any other traffic infraction. The reason for the high number of dismissals is that although law enforcement is tasked to determine fault at an accident scene most of the time the police officer did not witness the accident. Therefore, in order to prove fault witnesses typically must testify. These witnesses are just ordinary people that more often than not do not show up or do not testify to the requirements of the law.

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