Dangerous driving is a specified offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.

If the driving results in a fatality, the maximum punishment is increased to 14 years.

Minimum disqualification durations, very long real disqualifications, and insurance costs that will be high for many years to come are all present in each scenario; some drivers may not be able to obtain insurance at all, at any price.

What is dangerous driving?

Dangerous driving is defined by section 2A Road Traffic Act 1988:

“…a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and, subject to subsection (2) below, only if)—

(a) the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

There is also a component of dangerous driving that is related to unsafe automobiles, although that is not the focus of this article.

The exam is a ‘objective one,’ which means it will be judged via the eyes of a ‘skilled and careful driver,’ rather of the eyes of the actual driver. As a result, the decision will be made by a magistrate/judge or a jury.

The essential aspect of the exam is that the driving falls “far below” the desired norm, and it is this that makes advising in these situations such a difficult assignment on occasion.

It will be clear in some cases that the driving is ‘far below’ the required standard. So there is no room for discussion if you drive at 100 mph on the incorrect side of the highway at night without lights.

But what if you overtake because you believe you have a clear view of the road ahead, only to collide with an incoming vehicle in the opposite lane? Is that driving that is ‘far below’ the threshold, or is it just an unfortunate lapse in judgement, one that may be classified as reckless but not dangerous?

Although there is no legal definition of “far below,” section 2A(3) of the 1988 Act stipulates that “dangerous” must refer to the risk of personal injury or substantial property damage.

We also know from case law that the driver’s skill level (or lack thereof) is unimportant (

Bannister [2009] EWCA Crim 1571).

The Crown Prosecution Service considers the following to be examples of risky driving, but it should be noted that the court will ultimately decide, and a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accused offence is required:

  • racing or competitive driving;
  • failing to have proper and safe regard for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders, the elderly and pedestrians or when in the vicinity of a pedestrian crossing, hospital, school or residential home;
  • speed, which is particularly inappropriate for the prevailing road or traffic conditions;
  • aggressive driving, such as sudden lane changes, cutting into a line of vehicles or driving much too close to the vehicle in front;
  • disregard of traffic lights and other road signs, which, on an objective analysis, would appear to be deliberate;
  • disregard of warnings from fellow passengers;
  • overtaking which could not have been carried out safely;
  • driving when knowingly suffering from a medical or physical condition that significantly and dangerously impairs the offender’s driving skills such as having an arm or leg in plaster, or impaired eyesight. It can include the failure to take prescribed medication;
  • driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest;
  • driving a vehicle knowing it has a dangerous defect or is poorly maintained or is dangerously loaded;
  • using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment whether as a phone or to compose or read text messages when the driver was avoidably and dangerously distracted by that use; R v Browning (2001) EWCA Crim 1831, R v Payne [2007] EWCA Crim 157;
  • driving whilst avoidably and dangerously distracted such as whilst reading a newspaper/map, talking to and looking at a passenger, selecting and lighting a cigarette or by adjusting the controls of electronic equipment such as a radio, hands-free mobile phone or satellite navigation equipment;
  • a brief but obvious danger arising from a seriously dangerous manoeuvre. This covers situations where a driver has made a mistake or an error of judgement that was so substantial that it caused the driving to be dangerous even for only a short time. Cases that illustrate this principle include:

Att.Gens’ Reference No 32 of 2001 (2002) 1 Cr.App.R. (S) 121 (offender failed to stop at a junction where there was a give way sign, failing to see a taxi that was being driven across the junction perfectly properly and colliding with it);

Att.Gen’s Reference No 4 of 2000 2000]) EWCA Crim 780 (offender unintentionally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake);

Att.Gen’s Reference No.76 of 2002 (Hodges) (2003) 1 Cr.App.R. (S) 100 (offender drove across a junction marked by a give way sign and collided with a car that was being driven along the major road and had no explanation for his failure to see the other car) “this was a single misjudgement. It was a bad misjudgement but nevertheless a single one”


Some of the situations in the preceding list may come as a surprise, such as when someone inadvertently applied the accelerator instead of the brake. It’s worth repeating that a lot depends on what transpired, with concepts like ‘…even if just for a short time…’ being debatable.

When does ‘…failing to have sufficient and safe respect…’ (which is a legal requirement) cross the threshold from careless to dangerous driving?

Is ‘overtaking that could not have been done safely…’ something that is intrinsically vulnerable to being judged in retrospect?

Defence strategies

There is a natural tendency in stressful conditions, especially when substantial harm has been caused, to believe that the driving error must have been quite serious.

Of all, we all know that even the tiniest mistake can have disastrous repercussions on occasion. As a result, if you are questioned by police after an accident, it is critical that you retain legal counsel right once.

Regardless of your financial situation, all legal advice and help at a police station is free.

In these circumstances, accident investigation and reconstruction are now key considerations, allowing scientists and engineers to see exactly what caused the disaster and the extent of error, often exposing the guilt of others.

Eyewitness testimony is not always trustworthy, and it is sometimes affected by the outcome of the driving rather than the driving itself.

It may be clear-cut in some circumstances, but there may still be room for manoeuvre, and pleading guilty to the lesser charge of careless driving may be an option.

How we can assist

It might be difficult to determine whether a particular act of driving constitutes dangerous driving, but our skilled attorneys regularly handle all types of driving cases, from minor to major.

Whether or whether you are facing imprisonment, losing your driver’s licence is a very serious penalty for many people, therefore you should take all precaution to avoid it.