Section 2 Road Traffic Act 1988

Dangerous Driving is one of the most serious road traffic offences attracting penalties of mandatory disqualification for a minimum period of 12 months, a fine and the requirement to re-sit the extended driving test.  A person, therefore, remains disqualified until they re-sit the appropriate driving test.  Longer periods of disqualification will apply depending on the gravity of the driving and if the driver has previously been disqualified.  In the most serious cases of dangerous driving a prison sentence of 2 years can be imposed.

Most cases of dangerous driving in Scotland are prosecuted at Sheriff Court Level.  In Glasgow, however, most cases of this type will call before a Stipendiary Magistrate within the Justice of the Peace Court.  Some cases will proceed before the High Court where much higher penalties can be imposed.

Definition of Dangerous Driving

A person commits the offence of dangerous driving if:

  • the way they drive 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.

A person can also be convicted of dangerous driving if they knowingly drive a vehicle which is in a dangerous condition.  If, for example, a person drives a vehicle which has an obvious defect with the brakes that, in itself, would be enough to constitute the offence of dangerous driving.

Dangerous, in this context, refers to danger of injury to any person and/or serious damage to property.  Even if there is no actual injury or damage to property the offence can still arise if the standard of driving has the potential to cause injury or damage.

Examples of Dangerous Driving

Dangerous driving can arise in almost any circumstance and includes aggressive driving, overtaking in the face of on-coming traffic or other dangers, excessive speed for the road or conditions, racing, disregarding traffic signals or attempting to carry out other tasks while driving, such as, reading a map or using a mobile phone.   Each case will depend on its own circumstances.  A combination of manoeuvres which, in themselves, would not amount to dangerous driving might when taken together amount to dangerous driving, such as undertaking at excessive speed.

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Defences to Dangerous Driving

In deciding whether the driving complained of amounts to dangerous driving consideration must be given to “any explanation offered by the accused driver which shows that his driving in the particular circumstances did not possess the quality of recklessness at the material time”.  The accused may simply deny the incident took place or indeed that he was the driver.  He may claim that the incident has been exaggerated or that there was a reason for why he drove as he did.  An unknown mechanical defect may also provide a defence as will cases that involve an emergency, necessity or duress.  These types of defence may also operate as Special Reasons for not disqualifying the driver. 

Careless, Not Dangerous!

In a large number of cases a driver will accept that his driving fell below an acceptable standard, but does not accept that it amounts to Dangerous Driving.  In this situation it may be possible to persuade the Court to accept that the driving amounts to Careless Driving and not Dangerous Driving.  The prosecution may also be persuaded to remove some of the more aggravating features of the charge.  This will significantly reduce the penalties and, if a charge is reduced to Careless Driving, disqualification may be avoided altogether by the imposition of penalty points

Difference between Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving

There is often a grey area between Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving.  The test and legal definition is quite similar and for this reason Careless Driving is described as an alternative charge to Dangerous Driving.  What this means is that even if there is not enough evidence to establish Dangerous Driving the court can still convict a person of Careless Driving if the circumstances and evidence show that the required standard has not been met. However, the penalties that apply are very different, which is why anyone facing a Dangerous Driving or Careless Driving charge should obtain specialist legal advice.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

Where dangerous driving results in a death the sentence is one of a minimum period of 2 years disqualification and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.   There must be a causal link between the dangerous driving and the death.  Even where death has occurred from a driving incident a charge of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving may be reduced to the lesser charge of Careless and Inconsiderate Driving.


How we can help

The law relating to dangerous driving offences is technical and complex. Our experience with dangerous driving charges is that a large number of these prosecutions can be successfully defended. Our expertise in this area will quickly determine the best option for you. If prospects for success are low we will concentrate on damage limitation. As specialist road traffic lawyers we are best placed to offer the right advice. We pride ourselves in offering a service that is friendly, reliable and honest. For free advice that is without pressure or obligation simply contact us:

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