Questions we answer in this guide:
- What is dangerous driving?
- What are the penalties for dangerous driving?
- What happens if you’re prosecuted for dangerous driving?
- What mitigating circumstances or defences can be made against prosecution for dangerous driving?
If you’ve read our guide on careless driving, you’ll know that charges for that offence are often down to an individual officer and the decisions they make at the time of the offence.
Dangerous driving is similar, in that incidents of dangerous driving may draw the attention of police, and they will decide whether to penalise you with this, more serious, offence.
Examples of dangerous driving include:
- excessive speeding, racing, dangerous overtaking and aggressive driving
- driving a vehicle you know to be dangerous, either through mechanical fault or carrying an unsafe or poorly secured load
- drivers who allow themselves to become avoidably and/or dangerously distracted while driving, through, amongst other things, using a hand-held phone or other electronic device, changing CDs or radio stations etc., looking at a sat-nav or reading a map whilst driving
Penalties for dangerous driving
As you might expect, the punishment for dangerous driving varies greatly depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Where a driver is more at fault, through their own irresponsibility or disregard for the safety of others, and where they have caused greater harm to persons or damage property (i.e. an accident), the greater the punishment.
If prosecuted and tried in a magistrates' court, the maximum penalty is 6 months in prison, an unlimited fine, 3–11 penalty points and a driving ban.
More serious offences tried in Crown court have harsher penalties, with a maximum 2 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban, followed by a mandatory retest before your licence can be reissued.
And if convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, the penalty is a maximum of 5 years imprisonment followed by a mandatory driving ban. And persons convicted of causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence of drink or drugs face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Prosecutions for dangerous driving
If you've been charged and are facing prosecution for dangerous driving, then you should seek legal advice immediately.
Along with driving under the influence of drink or drugs, dangerous driving is a major offence and is treated as such, even in cases where there was no accident, injuries or damage.
In cases like these, the police would have to issue you with a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). This may be done verbally, at the scene of the offence, or will be sent to the driver responsible in the days after the offence.
If you're sent an NIP in the post, you must complete and return it to the police. Even if you disagree with the charge, or believe you have received the NIP in error, you mustn't ignore it.
Having returned the NIP to the police, they'll then decide whether to press ahead with the charge by taking the case to court, issue with a fixed-penalty notice or take no further action.
Where there was an accident, and the police wish to charge someone responsible with dangerous driving, they will not send an NIP and the person being charged will instead receive a summons to appear before either a magistrates' or a crown court.
It’s not just the drivers of vehicles that can be charged with dangerous driving. If someone’s behavior can be said to have contributed to another person’s dangerous driving, they can be charged under for either aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring dangerous driving. For example, a passenger in a stolen vehicle that is subsequently driven dangerously can potentially face the same punishment as the driver.
Mitigating circumstances for dangerous driving
Just as the penalties can increase for those drivers who demonstrated greater degree of recklessness on the road, so too can the courts exercise leniency; either on:
- those drivers who may be found to bear less responsibility for any damage or injuries caused as a result of their driving; for example, where there was a genuine emergency, where speed or aggression was not a factor or the driver’s inexperience was to blame, as opposed to their irresponsibility
- those who show a greater degree of remorse for the actions; for example, co-operation with the authorities and admissions of guilt to police in the aftermath of the offence
Drivers may also be able to cite other possible defenses for their dangerous driving, such as:
- fear of violence (or the threat of violence) forced you to drive dangerously
- if your vehicle suffered a mechanical fault that resulted in you losing control
- a medical condition caused your own health to deteriorate and driving to suffer.
Want to know more about motoring law?
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