Section 61 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 defines persons driving in dangerous manners, including over-speeding. It may include all circumstances that endanger the public or any person while driving. It also states the penalties involved in dangerous driving.
Depending on the severity of the offence and the circumstances aggravating the situation, penalties for dangerous driving may include a fine of 60 penalty units for the first offence. For subsequent offences, penalties may include a fine of 120 penalty units or imprisonment of at least nine months. In some cases, the offender may be disqualified from holding or getting a license within the next twelve months.
What makes dangerous driving a criminal offence?
Dangerous driving can be considered a criminal offence if it results in the death or harm of innocent persons. Innocent persons may include bystanders, pedestrians and passengers. When your negligence in driving results in a collision or vehicular wreckage, it may constitute dangerous driving which is punishable by law.
When the offender has just committed a criminal offence whilst escaping the authorities resort to dangerous driving, he or she can be charged with dangerous driving. While evading the police pursuit, the offender is under the influence of intoxicating substances that otherwise rendered him or her unfit for wielding adequate control of the vehicle.
What circumstances aggravate dangerous driving?
Section 7a of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act of 1999 states the aggravating circumstances of furious, reckless and dangerous driving.
The following circumstances can aggravate the penalty when you are charged with dangerous driving:
- Failure to comply with the police officer the moment you see a request or signal to stop the motor vehicle;
- Driving under the influence of a prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood;
- When you are over-speeding and exceeding the limit by more than 30 per cent;
- Driving recklessly and dangerously with a minor under 17 years of age in the vehicle;
- Drink driving with the prescribed alcohol concentration in blood or as a result of the breath test;
- When you are driving under the influence of intoxicating substances that renders you incapacitated to properly control the vehicle;
- When the manner of your driving risks the safety of “vulnerable road users;” and
- If the driver was a repeat offender.
Vulnerable users, under this clause, is defined to include pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, animal riders, and riders of scooters and Segways.
What possible defences are available to a person charged with dangerous driving?
Driving with Due Care
Your defence team has the burden of proving that you were driving with due care. If you were driving according to the standard of care expected of the level of your driving skill, you can use this as a defence to at least lowering the penalty. Despite driving with due diligence, accidents are still inevitable and can happen the least you expect them.
Driving Under a Sense of Duty
If you are working in the medical field, police department or as a volunteer firefighter, surely you have a duty that you must fulfil. When you are in pursuit of an offender or rushing a patient to the emergency room, this can be a possible defence when you are charged with dangerous driving.
When people’s lives are at stake and you just have to drive faster than the recommended speed, all you need to prove is that you were acting under a sense of duty. You should also prove that even if you were speeding off, you were applying the standard of care of a diligent driver.
Driving Under Duress
When you are driving recklessly or dangerously because you were threatened to do so, it can also be a good defence. All you have to do is prove in court that a third party is coercing you to drive without your consent and under duress.
The psychological effect of being threatened while driving is no joke and it could lead to nervousness resulting in uncontrolled driving. You should prove that you were coerced to become an instrument of a third party’s criminal intent.
When a family member needs to be taken to the hospital immediately and you can’t find emergency help in time, driving past the speed limit can be a possible defence. Nothing is more important than to ensure that your loved ones are safe and free from danger.
When someone you care about is at the brink of death, you surely will act on an impulse to make sure that he or she surpasses the ordeal. Driving as fast as you can to get medical help in time can be a valid reason for what seems to be dangerous driving.
The Driver is Mentally Impaired
A person is considered mentally impaired when he or she is incapable of evaluating the nature and quality of his or her actions and conduct. In most instances, a mentally impaired person does not know that what he or she is doing is wrong.
Mental impairment may include hyperglycaemia, schizophrenia and cerebral arteriosclerosis. It may also include people suffering from seizures and epilepsy. In some cases, this happens without the control of the person driving or when they least expect it.
Your lawyer can use your condition as a defence to either mitigate your sentence or free you from the charges. Your defence lawyer may consult an expert witness to prove your incapacity at the time of the offence.
Dangerous driving is a culpable offence because of the negligent and reckless manner of driving at the time the offence was committed. The burden of proof rests on the defence to assure the court and the public that the dangerous manner of driving was unintentional and involuntarily done.
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