Causing Death by Dangerous Driving
Causing death by dangerous driving is the most serious road traffic offence. In very sad circumstances, where someone has died, it is common for the police to charge a driver with causing death by dangerous driving.
Penalty for causing death by dangerous driving
The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving is life imprisonment. Around 93% of people convicted of causing death by dangerous driving are sent to prison.
The court must also impose a minimum 5 year disqualification with the requirement to do an extended driving test. This is the minimum sentence that can be imposed for causing death by dangerous driving.
Having an experienced solicitor to represent you can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Sometimes your vehicle insurers will pay for us to represent you. This is something we will explore with you for free.
Get in touch if you have received:
- a request to attend a police station interview for causing death by dangerous driving
- contact from the police telling you that they are charging you with causing death by dangerous driving
- a Court Summons
- a Postal Requisition
- a court hearing date
How we help
If you are charged with a serious offence and have a defence, we will advise you on it. It is not uncommon for these offences to be overcharged, and if we believe this is the case, we will strive to persuade the prosecution to reduce or discontinue the charge.
We work with specialist motoring offence barristers who will represent you at the Crown Court. You will have the best chance of defending your case successfully. If a guilty plea is appropriate, we will prepare strong mitigation to reduce your sentence.
If you would like to know more please contact us today.
How our driving solicitors help
- We can represent you at an interview at the police station for causing death by dangerous driving.
- We can write to the police to ask them to withdraw or reduce the charge.
- We can advise you on your plea.
- We can tell you how to strengthen your case.
- We can represent you in court.
Defending cases of causing death by dangerous driving
The prosecution must prove the elements of the offence as required by the legal definition (in green). If they cannot, then you are not guilty of the offence.
As a starting point, the prosecution must prove that your driving was of a standard that amounts to dangerous driving, not simply careless driving. In cases which result in someone’s death, there is naturally a temptation for the prosecution to charge the most serious offence.
For more information please see our FAQs on causing death by dangerous driving offences below.
Factors to consider
The police may be under pressure from the family of the deceased who is understandably upset and is seeking justice for their loved one. Although it is an objective test, there is also an element of subjectivity when considering whether driving is dangerous or merely careless. From a legal point of view, it is easier to reduce a charge from a more serious allegation down to a less serious one than it is the other way around. Tactically, it may also invite a plea from the defence to a lesser allegation.
In light of the above, there are many occasions where the nature of the driving would appear to be careless but is ‘overcharged’ as dangerous.
In many cases, the correct charge is causing death by careless driving, which carries a much lower sentence.
Causing Death by Dangerous Driving Offence FAQs
What do the police have to prove for causing death by dangerous driving?
The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if:
- The way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
- It would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
The prosecution must also prove that the defendant caused the death of another person.
The law does not require that the defendant’s driving must be a significant or substantial cause of death.
The driving need not be the only cause of death. However, the driving must be a cause and it must be something more than a slight or trifling link. It is important to note that to be a cause of death in law, the driving must in some way be the actual cause of death, and not simply create an occasion for an accident.
What is the difference between causing death by dangerous and careless driving?
The distinction is primarily based upon the standard driving displayed. It is a matter of fact and degree.
The definition of careless driving (driving without due care and attention) is contained in section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is:
“Driving in a manner that falls below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.”
As can be seen from the definition, it is virtually identical to that of dangerous driving apart from the use of the word “below” in place of the words “far below”.
Are there any examples of causing death by dangerous driving?
- Aggressive driving (such as sudden lane changes or cutting into a line of vehicles) or racing or competitive driving or speed that is highly inappropriate for the prevailing road or traffic conditions
- Disregard of traffic lights and other road signs which, on an objective analysis, would appear to be deliberate
- Driving a vehicle knowing it has a dangerous defect or with a load which presents a danger to other road users
- Using a hand-held mobile phone or other handheld electronic equipment when the driver was avoidably and dangerously distracted by that use
- Driving when too tired to stay awake or where the driver is suffering from impaired ability such as having an arm or leg in plaster, or impaired eyesight.
Not all displays of driving will fall clearly the category of dangerous or careless driving, so you must seek advice well before entering your plea. You do not have to use the same solicitor who represented you at the police station, and in cases involving serious offences, it is often best to seek specialist motoring advice.
Can the jury find me guilty of anything else?
- Dangerous driving
- Causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving
- Careless, or inconsiderate, driving
The penalties for the above offences are far less severe than causing death by dangerous driving, but the first two in the list may still result in imprisonment depending on the circumstances. Even if you are found not to have offended, it is difficult for the sentencing judge to overlook the fact that someone has died and it is inevitably reflected in the sentence.
Get in touch by completing the contact form below, and one of our team will get back to you.