Careless & Dangerous Driving. What's the difference?

Updated: Oct 9

Careless and Dangerous driving are two of the most prevalent traffic offences prosecuted under the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic).


Often, a single set of facts will result in the police alleging a driver is guilty of both Dangerous driving and Careless Driving. This article takes a look at the differences between both offences.


Careless Driving what the prosecution must prove


Under section 65 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the driver:

  • drove a motor vehicle

  • on a highway

  • carelessly

'motor vehicle' is defined under section 3 of the Act


'careless driving' is not defined under the Act, but is under common law (case law).


The definition or legal test for Careless Driving


The test for whether driving is "careless" is an objective one and defined as a driver "who fails to exercise the degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise in the circumstances (Simpson v. Peat [1952] 2 QB 24; Crispin v. Rhodes (1986) 40 SASR 202). Whether someone has driven carelessly has to be determined by the particular facts and circumstances.


The Penalties for Carless Driving


Under s. 65 of the Act, a first offence attracts a maximum of 12 penalty units, whereas a second (and subsequent), 25 penalty units.


Whilst a finding of guilty will not automatically result in license suspension or disqualification, it is important to note that under Section 28 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), the Court has a discretion as to whether to order a period of license suspension for careless driving.


Dangerous Driving what the prosecution must prove


Under section 64 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that driver:


  • drove a motor vehicle

  • at a speed

  • or in a manner

  • dangerous to the public

  • having regard to all the circumstances of the case


Under the Act, to 'driving a motor vehicle' is defined under section 3AB of the Act, & to 'drive' a includes being 'in control of a vehicle'.


A 'motor vehicle' is also defined the Act, under section 3 of the Act.


As with careless driving, 'dangerous driving' is not defined under the Act.


The legal test for Dangerous Driving


The High Court in King v. R [2012} HCA 24 observed that in determining whether driving is dangerous, the test is concerned with the risk characteristics of the driving in question and whether it "subjects the public to some risk over and above that ordinarily associated with the driving of a motor vehicle, including driving by persons who may, on occasions, drive with less than due care and attention."


The Penalties for Dangerous Driving


Under Section 64 of the Act, a person found guilty will receive mandatory license cancellation and disqualification. In the case of where the motor vehicle was driving at a speed dangerous (45km/hr or more over the permitted speed limit), a minimum of 12 months license disqualification. Where the vehicle was not driven in a manner dangerous, a minimum disqualification of 6 months applies.


In addition, the offence of Dangerous driving specifies a maximum penalty of 240 penalty units, or 2 years imprisonment or both


The offence of Dangerous driving is a summary offence and heard in the Magistrates' Court. Where a person is killed because of dangerous driving the case will be heard in the County Court. In cases where a person is seriously injured an application may be made to hear and determine the case in the Magistrates' Court, although in practice the case will usually be heard in the County Court.


Mandatory license disqualification if found guilty of Dangerous Driving


Under Section 64 of the Act, a person found guilty will receive mandatory license cancellation and disqualification. In the case of where the motor vehicle was driving at a speed dangerous (45km/hr or more over the permitted speed limit), a minimum of 12 months license disqualification. Where the vehicle was not driven in a manner dangerous, a minimum disqualification of 6 months applies.


Conclusion


As is evident from the foregoing disucssion, a charge of Dangerous Driving carries more serious consequences than Careless driving. Often there will be a genuine dispute as to whether driving is Dangerous or Careless. For this reason it is always advisable to seek advice from an experienced traffic offence lawyer. Shaun Pascoe, the Director of Pascoe Criminal Law is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist and an experienced traffic defence lawyer. Call our office on 03 9668 7600 or send us an email submission for an initial case assessment at no cost.


Written by Shaun Pascoe, Director, Pascoe Criminal Law.


6 views0 comments