Dangerous Driving

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The term dangerous driving may conjure up images of boy racers furiously weaving in and out of traffic in a Hollywood style car chase. However, you could be facing prosecution in a criminal court for the offence of dangerous driving for driving manoeuvres and behaviours that are far less extreme. Whatever driving behaviour you have been accused of, dangerous driving is a serious offence that carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment. You also face a mandatory 12 month ban with extended retest. Penalty points cannot be imposed for this offence so seeking advice from specialists at the earliest possible stage is essential if you are seeking to avoid conviction or minimise the potential penalty imposed.

The Law

The offence is committed under s.2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. For you to be convicted of the offence, the prosecution must prove that you drove a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place.  The term “dangerous driving” is defined as when the standard of driving falls so far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

What is “dangerous driving”?

The Crown must prove that the standard of driving was “dangerous” in accordance with the statutory definition which means that what is dangerous can be open to interpretation. For mid-range offences, there is often a fine line between dangerous and careless driving. Examples of dangerous driving can include:

  • Driving aggressively or racing;
  • Failing to have proper regard for vulnerable road users;
  • Driving when knowingly suffering from a medical or physical condition that significantly and dangerously impairs the offender’s driving skills such as having an arm or leg in plaster, or impaired eyesight. It can include the failure to take prescribed medication;
  • Driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest;
  • Overtaking in an unsafe manner – particularly undertaking;
  • Knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle;
  • Being distracted whilst driving e.g. reading a map, smoking, eating, drinking, driving using a mobile phone or using an mp3 player; and
  • Ignoring traffic signs or signals;

What must be proved for me to be convicted?

Standard of driving

The standard of your driving must be proven to be “dangerous” in order for the Court to convict you of this offence. The Crown therefore have to show that your driving fell within the statutory definition specified above. The standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt which is where our expertise can make the difference between a conviction or an acquittal. Doubt can be introduced through witness evidence, cross examination of the crown’s witnesses and by defence expert testimony.

Defences

Every case is different and should be considered in detail before we decide on what defences may be available to you. Examples of potential defences are:

  • The fault lay with the other road user or third party;
  • Your driving was not “dangerous” in accordance with the definition above;
  • Lack of credible witnesses for the Prosecution; and
  • Other contributory factors such as unknown defects on the vehicle in question

It is always best to talk to us as soon as possible as we will usually be able to identify potential issues with the Crown’s case at an early stage. It is also often the case that one of our approved experts can be asked to consider the evidence and to assist us in challenging the Crown’s case.

In some circumstances, we are able to explore the possibility of inviting the Crown to withdraw the charge or to lay a lesser charge of careless driving in the alternative. This offence carries a potential of 3-9 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification.

Case studies

Dangerous Driving – Mr Tom D – Isleworth Crown Court

Mr D mistook a cyclist for a burglar and struck him with his car. He was advised to plead guilty by other solicitors before he instructed us to defend his case.

He pleaded not guilty and the matter proceeded to trial in the Crown Court.

After trial the jury were unable to reach a verdict. At this point we were able to negotiate a plea to the lesser charge of careless driving for which Mr D received a 5 point penalty.  This was an excellent result as Mr D was facing not only a driving disqualification but also a possible custodial sentence as well.

Dangerous Driving – Mr Peter Foster – Hull Crown Court

Mr Foster was involved in an alleged road rage incident involving a “stand off” between him and another vehicle on a narrow country lane. Mr Foster had been driving a tractor and claimed his foot slipped causing him to literally plough into the other vehicle.

He pleaded not guilty and several offers were made to the prosecution throughout the case to enter a guilty plea to careless driving instead of dangerous driving. Such offers were rejected until the Crown Court judge presiding over the case practically forced the prosecution to reconsider their stance and offer the lesser offence of careless driving.

Dangerous Driving – LB Company Director – Birmingham

I would like to confirm in writing my satisfaction regarding the service Geoffrey Miller provided me with regarding my recent driving offences. I was most impressed by your professional, calm and precise approach you gave me during a very worrying time for me and my family.

Whilst it was always going to difficult to get any acquittal on either charge, this was down to my failing in the early stages to protect my position, you never gave up and was always there to renew my confidence in me.

Penalties

The maximum penalty for the offence of dangerous driving is two years’ imprisonment, the minimum being a low level community order. You will also be disqualified from driving for at least one year and you will have to complete an extended retest to get your licence back at the end of the period of disqualification.

Damien Wilkinson

In all cases you dealt with, I cannot commend your professionalism, un-patronising manner and obviously the great success you and your colleagues achieved enough. You have undoubtedly saved my licence and my career. I spoke with general solicitors before first finding your team and I do not think a non-specialist solicitor would have expanded on the basic flaws in the prosecution’s case the way you did, resulting in two of the cases being thrown out and in one case my being convicted of careless driving instead of dangerous driving.

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