Driving a motor vehicle requires correct decision making and complete concentration. If a person drives a vehicle in such a manner that results in death or injury of another person, then such a person has committed the offence of dangerous driving.
Dangerous driving offences are various and therefore the law pertaining to such offences vary throughout Australia. In New South Wales, Sections 52A and 52AA of the Crimes Act 1900 (New South Wales Consolidated Act) (the Act) confers the rules and procedures to be followed if a person is accused of dangerous driving.
Dangerous Driving Offences
Dangerous driving may cause death or grievous bodily harm (GBH), a serious injury as defined by the Act, to the victim. The maximum penalty for the offence of dangerous driving causing death is 10 years imprisonment which can be aggravated to 14 years. Whereas, the maximum penalty for the offence of dangerous driving causing GBH is 7 years imprisonment which can be aggravated to 11 years.
The circumstances which may lead to such aggravation of penalties for the offence include when:
- The person’s breath or blood contains prescribed concentration of alcohol;
- The driving speed exceeded, by more than 45 kilometers per hour, the speed limit (if any) applicable to that length of road;
- The accused was driving the vehicle to escape pursuit by a police officer; or
- The accused was under the influence of a drug and the ability to drive was substantially impaired.
Whether the driver is guilty or not, depends on the circumstances and evidences found in the case. Most of the cases will be termed as dangerous driving unless the driver was hit from the rear. Accidents may occur due to the failure of look out, for inappropriate distance maintained or for exceeding the speed limits. The driver may be guilty of dangerous driving even if there is no accident.
Defenses generally available to an accused of dangerous driving are as follows:
- He/she was driving with a reasonable amount of care;
- He/she was speeding because of an emergency, such as carrying a patient in the car; or
- The driver was wrongly identified.
If a driver is found guilty of dangerous driving, the accused may have to serve certain penalties. They are as follows:
In case where death is occasioned:
- for the first time offenders the Court can impose maximum fine up to $3,300 and for second or subsequent offences a maximum fine up to $5,500;
- for the first time offenders the Court can also sentence a goal term up to a period of maximum 18 months and for second or subsequent offences up to a period of 2 years.
In case where grievous bodily harm is occasioned:
- For the first time offenders the Court can impose maximum fine up to $2,200 and for second or subsequent offences a maximum fine up to $3,300;
- For the first time offenders the Court can also sentence a goal term up to a period of maximum 9 months and for second or subsequent offences up to a period of 12 months.
Differences among Careless Driving, Dangerous Driving and Reckless Driving
It is the least serious of the 3 offences. When a person drives a vehicle without proper care and attention, it is defined as careless driving. These offences are committed generally by the momentary lapse of judgement. Cutting in front of another vehicle, deviating from a straight line, or changing lanes without proper indication are some examples of careless driving.
Dangerous driving is more serious than careless driving. When judging whether a driver was driving dangerously or not, a Court will consider certain factors. These factors include the nature and quality of the road and driving, the number of pedestrians in the area at that time, the weather conditions and the health and experience of the driver. Penalties in dangerous driving include fines, licence suspension or imprisonment.
Reckless driving is the most serious driving offence. Here the driver exceeds the speed limit and drives in a manner that is inherently dangerous. The difference between dangerous driving and reckless driving is that, in reckless driving the driver is completely aware of his offences but continues to do so. If found guilty of this offence the driver will be liable of fine, imprisonment or licence cancellation.
If you are eager to know more about the rules and legislation pertaining to dangerous driving, feel free to contact our team of experts at Owen Hodge Lawyers.