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The offence of Dangerous Driving, s.2 Road Traffic Act 1988, is committed when a person's standard of driving falls ‘far below’ what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be ‘dangerous’.
Dangerous Driving is an either way offence carrying a level five fine and/or six months' custody in the magistrates' court; more serious cases are usually dealt with in the crown court, where the maximum penalty is two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Read more on the sentencing guidelines here.
Wherever the case is dealt with, the court must disqualify the driver from driving for at least one year and order an extended retest.
There is no statutory definition of what is meant by ‘far below’ but ‘dangerous’ must refer to danger of personal injury or of serious damage to property. The test for ‘dangerousness’ is an objective one.
A person is also to be regarded as driving dangerously if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state or condition would be dangerous. When considering the state or condition of the vehicle, regard may be had to anything carried by or attached to the vehicle.
Dangerous Driving also includes situations where the driver has adopted a particular manner of driving, where there is a substantial error of judgement that, even if only for a short time, amounts to driving falling far below the required standard. If the driving that caused the danger was taken as a deliberate decision, this would also be an aggravating feature potentially making the offence more serious.
Typical examples of Dangerous Driving might include –
You do not necessarily have to cause an accident or injure anyone to be charged with Dangerous Driving. Indeed, the skill, or lack of skill, of a driver is an irrelevant circumstance when considering whether the driving is dangerous.
The offence of Careless Driving (Driving Without Due Care and Attention) under s.3 Road Traffic Act 1988 is committed when the defendant’s driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.
Whether or not your driving is considered to have fallen below this standard is an objective test to be determined by the courts.
Driving without due care and attention is classed as a strict liability offence. This means you commit the offence even if it was a genuine accident and you had no intention to drive in such a way. It doesn’t matter if you are inexperienced, or if it was simply an error of judgment.
In determining what is to be expected of a competent and careful driver, the court should take into account not only the circumstances of which the driver could be expected to be aware, but also any circumstances shown to have been within the driver’s knowledge.
The following examples may amount to Careless Driving (Driving without due care and attention):
A failure to observe a provision of the Highway Code doesn’t itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings, but a failure, particularly a serious one, may constitute evidence of Careless or even Dangerous driving.
Occasionally, a collision may occur where there is no evidence of any mechanical defect, or other explanation to account for why the collision happened. In the absence of any explanation by the defendant, as to the cause of the collision, a court may infer that the offence of Careless Driving was committed.
Despite being a strict liability offence, defences are available and would commonly focus on factual disputes for example, the manner of your driving wasn’t careless, as the standard of your driving didn’t fall below that expected of a competent and careful driver, or your vehicle was subject to a mechanical defect which you were unaware of.
If convicted of Careless Driving, a driver can expect to receive a minimum of three penalty points and a £100 fine. For some minor offences for example, undertaking or hogging the middle lane of a motorway, these offences may sometimes be dealt with by offering the driver a Fixed Penalty Notice, as an alternative to formal prosecution.
Under certain circumstances, Driver Improvement Courses are also offered, as an alternative to a Fixed Penalty Notice, but whether a course is offered or not, is a matter of discretion depending on the facts of each case.
Read more on the sentencing guidelines here.
DRIVING WITHOUT REASONABLE CONSIDERATION
The offence of Driving Without Reasonable Consideration under s.3 Road Traffic Act 1988 is committed only when other persons are inconvenienced by the manner of the defendant's driving. There must be evidence that some other user of the road or public place was actually inconvenienced.
The penalty is the same as for Careless Driving.
This offence is normally evidenced by acts of impatience or aggressiveness. Typical examples might include:
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