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Dangerous Driving Solicitors Glasgow & Scotland

As a driver, it is important to be aware of what kind of actions can be classed as an offence. There is often only a fine line between dangerous driving and the lesser wrongdoing of careless driving. Dangerous driving encompasses a range of circumstances and no two cases are the same. This is why it is important you are aware of what it is and what the consequences are. Dangerous driving is one of the more serious road traffic offences. It has the potential to massively impact your life. Although representation from an expert road traffic lawyer is vital, this post aims to give a brief outline of the most important things to know about dangerous driving.

WHAT IS CLASSED AS DANGEROUS DRIVING?

  1. i. THE LAW

Dangerous driving is defined in section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. “A person who drives a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.”

You may think this is a vague and unhelpful definition. However, there is a strict two stage test applied by the court. This helps them decide if something should be classed as dangerous driving. The first part of the test requires the crown (the side arguing against you) to prove that the standard of driving falls far below what would be expected of a reasonable and competent driver. This is often known as a reasonable person test. Would the average reasonable driver be expected to act that way? The second part requires the crown to show that it would be obvious to such a reasonable and competent driver that the manner of driving is dangerous. This part is projecting into the knowledge of the average reasonable driver. Having this two-part test allows the sheriff to be certain beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed.

It is a wholly objective test. The decision is not influenced by personal feelings and opinions and nor are the personal circumstances of the individual considered. This means that a skilled driver will face the same standard of scrutiny as a newly qualified one.

There are 3 different decisions the court can reach; ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’. The result of a guilty verdict is obvious – some form of penalty. The results of not guilty and not proven, however, are confusingly the same; that the accused will be freed of the charge.

The court can also instead decide that the conduct should be classed as careless driving – a less serious offence governed by section 3 of the Road Traffic Act. This is referred to as the implied alternative. You can read about the details and penalties of this on the page entitled ‘careless driving’.

  1. ii. THE LAW IN CONTEXT

It’s all very well knowing what the law says but knowing what that means in practice is slightly different.

Many people have a vague idea of what dangerous driving is. It is relatively common sense. It can include things like driving at excessively high speeds, driving in the lane for oncoming traffic, engaging in a race with another vehicle, excessive braking, tailgating, undertaking, lack of concentration… the list goes on. Any single driving behaviour on its own isn’t necessarily dangerous. The court must consider the behaviours in context. Circumstances such as amount of traffic, number of pedestrians, the state of the vehicle itself and even weather conditions are important.

Remember though, since a purely objective test is applied, it is the driving itself which is assessed as dangerous. No consideration is given to the driver’s own state of mind, intentions or ability.

PENALTIES

  1. i. DISQUALIFICATION

The penalty if you are found guilty of dangerous driving is a mandatory disqualification for a statutory minimum period of 12 months. The court can impose a longer ban. The circumstances of the case, evidence pled by the Crown and whether or not a guilty plea is tendered will all affect the type and length of sentence given.

You also have to pass an extended driving test before the ban is lifted. This means that if the ban period ends and the test has not been passed, you are still unable to drive. Once the test has been passed you will obtain a full driving licence once more.

The ban also comes with a fine which can be very large, since there is no law limiting the amount.

  1. ii. PENALTY POINTS

Confusingly, instead of imposing a disqualification period, Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 allows the endorsement of a driving licence with 3-11 penalty points. This is only in very specific circumstances where the concept of ‘special reasons’ comes into play. This means there are mitigating circumstances (some kind of legitimate explanation for the conduct) which fall short of an absolute defence. The most common one relied on is that the offence was committed whilst dealing with a medical emergency.

This has to relate to the offence itself rather than the offender and is a tricky balancing act. For example, it is not a special reason to argue that the conviction will mean the offender cannot do their job properly. This reason relates to the offender themselves and not the offence. Courts have to weigh the serious nature of the dangerous driving offence against the reason. This makes it very difficult to advance.

  • iii. IMPRISONMENT

In more serious cases the convicted driver can also face imprisonment. A range of factors will be contemplated before the court decides this. Things including seriousness of the dangerous driving offence itself and whether the accused has previous convictions for similar driving offences will be considered.

The court also must have regard to the stage at which the plea of guilty is entered and consider whether a discount in sentence is appropriate. A discount in sentence is completely discretionary although disqualification cannot be discounted below the statutory 12 month minimum.

The length of imprisonment can vary. If the crime has resulted in a fatality, a prison sentence of up to 14 years can be imposed. If the case is brought summarily (i.e. before a sheriff and without a jury) the maximum period of imprisonment is 6 months. If the accused is prosecuted before a jury, it could be a period of up to 5 years.

CHALLENGING THE CONVICTION

Each case is extremely fact dependent and there are a number of factors that may influence the outcome. For example, the crown is required to present corroborated evidence. This means that they need two independent sources of evidence pointing to the same fact or conclusion. If this is not present, they cannot prove their case.

Aside from circumstantial factors, there are other ways to reduce the consequences of what has happened.

  1. i. A PLEA TO CARELESS DRIVING?

Mentioned above was the concept of the implied alternative. Sometimes a court citation may contain not only the charge of dangerous driving, but also an invisible further charge of careless driving. Here, it is open to the court to decide that although the conduct is not dangerous driving, it is careless. And vice versa. Although sometimes even a careless driving charge can result in disqualification, chances are the penalty will be less extreme.

Even though sometimes the original charge of careless driving can be elevated to dangerous driving, the court are often barred from doing so by the provisions governing notices of intended prosecution and warnings. It is important you take legal advice in this situation, as there is a legal presumption that the crown has satisfied these requirements unless otherwise proven.

  1. ii. A PLEA TO SPEEDING?

If the conduct said to be dangerous driving is speeding, it is not always the case that you will be able to plead guilty to a speeding charge instead. You will only be able to do so if there is a separate charge of speeding noted on the complaint.

  • iii. DOES TYPE OF VEHICLE MATTER?

You may think that the type of vehicle you were driving is relevant in determining whether such driving was dangerous. For example, if you are driving irresponsibly fast but your car is equipped for high speeds and fitted with performance breaks, you may think that this makes it less dangerous. Again, it must be reiterated that the legal test is an objective one and this may be a dangerous line to take at trial. Just because a car is equipped for it, doesn’t give any entitlement to drive at a higher speed. However, just as a badly maintained car can form the basis for a dangerous driving charge, a well maintained one could aid you in your defence.

Contact Our Dangerour Driving Lawyers Glasgow

Finally, you may be wondering whether you actually need a lawyer to represent you if you are faced with dangerous driving charges. You are not required to instruct a solicitor. However, the crown will always be represented by a qualified road traffic solicitor. For this reason, it is always safer to get in contact with an experienced lawyer.

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