Careless or Dangerous driving?
Is it Careless or Dangerous driving?
We often hear of incidents where the driver of a vehicle has been charged with one of the following;
- Causing Death by Dangerous Driving
- Dangerous Driving
- Careless and Inconsiderate Driving
According to current UK legislation, a driver is guilty of Dangerous Driving if:
The way he or she drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver; and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
Dangerous is explicitly defined within the 1991 Road Traffic Act, careless is not. There are two forms of the Careless and Inconsiderate Driving offence:
- Driving Without Due Care and Attention
- Driving Without Reasonable Consideration for Other Road Users
So far as the first is concerned, evidence must show that the defendant's driving fell below the required standard, in that he/she was not displaying the proper care and attention of a reasonable, competent and prudent driver. For the second, in England, the evidence must show that other road users were inconvenienced by the inconsiderate driving of the defendant.
Although these two different forms of the offence require quite different types of evidence, they are often referred to under the general heading of Careless Driving. The majority of adults in the UK are drivers. This means that not only the person charged with an offence, but the magistrate, judge, jury, counsel for prosecution and defence, victim and bereaved are all likely to be, or have been, drivers.
Most drivers believe that their own driving skill is above average which has been established in many research projects.
Just over 40% of offenders convicted of Dangerous Driving are sentenced to immediate custody, around 35% are given a community sentence & 25% are fined, on average around £320, although this ranges from £10 to £2,500.
The following are some examples of the definitions for you to read and think about. Just from our average age on this forum, some of us are mature experienced drivers, however it is always worth thinking about what can happen when we rush our journeys, this doesnt matter how long you have been driving for.
Charge: Driving Without Due Care and Attention;
The defendant (female) had stopped at a junction of two roads, but pulled out too early and collided with another car. The defendant was not in court and pleaded guilty by letter. In the letter, she stated that she looked both ways at the junction but that a car was also pulling out opposite her. By the time she had looked at everything, she had pulled out in front of the other car, which was travelling faster than she had anticipated. A collision occurred in which both cars were badly damaged. She sent her driving licence, which was clean. The defendant pleaded guilty.
Fined ---- £100 with £35 costs
Licence endorsed with five penalty points.
Charge: Dangerous Driving;
The defendant was a 51-year-old male. The incident was on a dual carriageway and was witnessed by two police officers in an unmarked police car. According to their statements, they saw the defendant's car in the offside lane, driving very close to the car in front (estimated distance one metre). When the car in front pulled into the nearside lane he overtook. He was then seen to 'undertake' four vehicles, swerving from lane to lane, causing at least one vehicle to brake. He was driving at an average speed of 90.33 mph. The police later stopped the car and told the defendant that he would be reported for consideration of prosecution for Dangerous Driving and exceeding the speed limit. In court both police officers were present, along with a further witness who had been 'undertaken' by the defendant (whilst herself driving at 80 mph). The witness described the defendant's driving as erratic and dangerous. The defendant explained that his car, a BMW 328i, is a high performance vehicle with a better stopping speed than other cars. He said that he drove to a car's performance, and that his Jaguar and Lotus Esprit have disc brakes, which do not work as effectively, and so he would leave a greater distance when driving those.
The main issues used by the defence were that: Undertaking is not necessarily dangerous
Only one set of brake lights came on throughout the incident & There was no accident or injury
Not guilty of Dangerous Driving, guilty of Careless Driving
£400 fine plus £50 costs, six penalty points
Charge: Causing Death by Dangerous Driving
The accused was a 25-year-old graduate engineer. He was driving at 59 mph through a wide street in a city centre with 30 mph limit. He collided with another car as it was emerging from an office car park on his left between parked cars. It was alleged that had he not been driving at such an excessive speed, no accident would have happened. When the collision happened the plastic cap on the petrol tank of the other vehicle shot free and the tank exploded. All three occupants of that vehicle died in the resulting fire.
Although a charge of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving had been recommended by the Procurator Fiscal, it was felt by both Fiscal and police that there were likely to be problems in getting this conviction. The plastic petrol cap had made the outcome more severe than could have been anticipated. A taxi driver following the accused claimed that his driving had not been dangerous.
At the trial he admitted that he was 'rushing' to his girlfriend's flat. The prosecution argued that his speed was "wholly unnecessary and grossly excessive. His driving was not just careless; it was way beyond carelessness. It should have been glaringly obvious to any driver that travelling at such a grossly excessive speed was dangerous." The defence counsel urged the jury to find the accused guilty of Careless Driving, rather than Dangerous Driving. He claimed "He made mistakes, but his driving was not so gross and grave as to be dangerous."
The jury found him unanimously guilty of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving. This caused some surprise within the Fiscal's office. It had been felt that the accused was 'unfortunate' and 'could not have anticipated the consequences' of his driving. It was thought that the guilty verdict resulted from the antipathy felt by the jury towards the accused who, it was thought, showed no remorse and came across as 'an arrogant young man'.
At the sentencing hearing a few weeks later, the sheriff, who has the power to impose a jail sentence of up to three years, remitted the case to the High Court, which has greater powers of sentencing. At the High Court it was stated that the accused was aware of the parked vehicles and that there were schools in the vicinity. It was also noted that he had a conviction for speeding imposed 'only months beforehand.'
Guilty of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving Four years in prison
Disqualified from driving for eight years and until a re-test passed
Think carefully before you press that accelerator to save a few minutes!