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 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.
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.
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.