Dangerous Driving

What is Dangerous Driving?

This occurs when the driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver in circumstances in which it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. In this connection “dangerous” refers to a danger either of personal injury or of serious damage to property. The difference with careless driving is that with careless driving the standard is simply ‘below’ that of the careful and competent driver whereas with dangerous driving the standard has to be ‘far below’ that of the competent and careful driver. Thus the difference between the two offences is simply a qualitative one.

In practice what does this mean?

Dangerous driving is more likely to be charged in cases in which there is a course of poor driving during which there was a clear risk of serious damage to property or of personal injury (rather than a momentary misjudgement). It is much less likely that such an offence will be alleged unless there has been actual damage or injury caused (although it is not essential for this to be the case in order to charge this offence).

Trials

This is an ‘either way’ offence meaning it can be tried either in the Crown Court or in the Magistrates’ Court. Depending on the situation the choice of which court hears a case may lie either with the Court or the Defence. However, one should bear in mind that the sentencing powers of each court are different. In the Magistrates Court the minimum disqualification period is 1 year and the maximum period of imprisonment is 6 months whereas in the Crown Court the maximum period of imprisonment is 2 years. There is no limit on the fine that can be imposed whether in the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court. In either case an extended driving test must be taken before the re-issue of a new licence.

Factors to Consider

Anyone facing an allegation of dangerous driving should very carefully consider his / her strategy from the outset as the consequences of conviction can be severe. The variation in sentencing powers is so great between the best and worst case scenarios, depending on how an individual case is viewed, that it will clearly pay a defendant to fully understand his / her choices from the outset in order to try to exercise as much control as possible over the final outcome.

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