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Dangerous / Careless Driving


When most people hear the phrase “dangerous or careless driving,” they often think they are both synonymous. But in fact, there is a large difference between the two. Careless driving is a traffic offence, while dangerous driving is a criminal offence.  

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Careless Driving

For starters, careless driving is a less serious offence and often referred to as “reckless driving”.

In general, this charge is given to those who drive without due consideration for others – pedestrians and drivers alike. Anyone can be charged with careless driving which includes driving on private property, even in the case when no one was injured, no property was damaged, or there are were no other cars around.

The best example is when a driver takes off from an intersection while the traffic light is red. In some cases, even if it is green and a driver takes off at an extremely high speed possibly increasing the chances of an accident – even if none occurred – is grounds for careless driving.

If charged with careless driving, the maximum penalty for an offender may contain a fine of up to $4,000.00 and six months imprisonment. There is no mandatory disqualification of a person’s driver licence, however the Magistrate still has the discretion to disqualify a person’s driver licence if they wish. Accordingly, it is very important to have legal representation as a good traffic lawyer will make submissions to the Magistrate urging them not to disqualify your driver licence.

Dangerous Driving

On the other hand, “dangerous driving” is a more serious and criminal offence. The cases that are often connected to dangerous driving are speeding, driving under the influence of intoxicating substances (alcohol and addictive drugs), and participating in other illegal activities such as drag racing and speed trials without permits. Any driving activity that will cause potential danger to the public is grounds for dangerous driving.

Typically, when charged with dangerous driving, the offender is penalised with a fine of up to $4,000.00 and five years imprisonment. Moreover, the offender will be disqualified of his/her driver’s license for a period. In some cases, the driver’s license may be revoked, requiring the driver to reapply.

The sentence for such action is aggravated if someone was harmed or, in worst-case, killed by the driver. In this case, the Judge may penalise the offender for up to 14 years imprisonment.

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Actions That May Result in a Dangerous Driving Charge

Though some incidents may be unintentional in nature, the offender can still be charged with dangerous driving. Here are a few examples:


  • Driving without fully focusing on the road that will result in an accident is considered dangerous driving. A charge will apply if the driver has run outside his/her lane causing harm to passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road.
  • Driving without carefully entering an intersection and striking a motorcyclist or another vehicle causing injury or death.
  • Driving while falling asleep and resulting in an accident. Even if the accident does not result in colliding with other vehicles or harming someone, as long as there is property damage, a charge will apply.
  • Driving at excessive speed or racing.
  • Overtaking or cutting off others at excessive speed potentially causing an accident.

Will an Offender Get a Criminal Conviction?

The recording of a criminal conviction is at the discretion of the court. The chances of getting a criminal conviction for such a charge is high since dangerous driving is considered a criminal offence. However, the court may still give the offender special consideration especially if they are a first-time offender.

If the offender’s conviction is recorded, they might have permanent difficulties travelling overseas or getting employed too.

Will an Offender Lose His/Her License?

Yes. There is no consideration for this. The offender will be disqualified of his/her license for a minimum of six months, mostly longer. That depends on the gravity of the offence and their traffic history. During the disqualification period, the offender is unable to drive which includes not being able to obtain a work license or hardship license for driving considerations.

What are the Offender’s Chances of an actual term of Imprisonment?

Again, as dangerous driving is considered a criminal offence, the chance of being imprisoned is relatively high, even for first-time offenders. Factor the court will taking into account when determining whether a sentence of imprisonment should be imposed includes the overall damage, and whether there was anyone else affected, killed, or injured. With the help of lawyers, less serious dangerous driving charges may end up in a fine, probation or community service.

If the offender is charged with dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) or death they are likely to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Additionally, if the driver was intoxicated during the accident, the sentence will likely increase.

Are There Defence Options?

Of course, like any criminal charge, there are viable defence options. In the case of dangerous driving, there are three typical major defences that the offender has:

  • That the offender did not drive in a dangerous manner or that the accident was either due to the road or the vehicle itself.
  • It was a necessity; the driver was forced to drive (in such manner) due to an emergency.
  • The driver was wrongly identified.

Most lawyers will try to reduce the charge of dangerous driving to careless driving. Unfortunately, even if the offender did not intentionally cause the accident, but was still the reason for it, will not hold up in court as a defence. For the defence to be successful, it needs to be proven that the driving conducted was in fact, not dangerous – even if it did cause an accident.

Is It Recommended for Offenders to Get a Lawyer?

Most Certainly. Dangerous driving is not a petty crime and has serious consequences. If your employment and work commitments rely on you having a licence, it’s crucial you contact a lawyer since a work licence is not possible if you receive a disqualification. It is best that the offender seeks a lawyer to minimise the disqualification period as much as possible and to help increase the odds of a successful license application in the future.

We are on call 24 hours 7days.  If you need a Lawyer, call us any time on 1800 465 569 or 0411 881 030



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Traffic & Criminal Lawyers Brisbane and Gold Coast | Hollows Boonen