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Death by dangerous driving – what offence could you be charged with?

There has been a great deal of debate surrounding the severity of the sentence for death by dangerous driving, which is currently up to 14 years in prison. You could also face a mandatory disqualification from driving (any motor vehicle) for a minimum of two years, and a compulsory extended retest. There is, however, mounting pressure on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to introduce stiffer sentences, with a public consultation generating 9,000 responses in December 2016, with 70% in favour of increasing the maximum sentence to a life term.

Death by dangerous driving is when “a person who causes death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.” This can include:

  • Racing, going too fast, or driving aggressively.
  • Ignoring traffic lights, road signs or warnings from passengers.
  • Overtaking dangerously.
  • Driving under the influence of drink or drugs, including prescription drugs.
  • Driving when unfit, including having an injury, being unable to see clearly, not taking prescribed drugs, or being sleepy.
  • Knowing the vehicle has a dangerous fault or an unsafe load.
  • The driver being avoidably and dangerously distracted, such as using a hand-held phone, tuning the radio or talking to and looking at a passenger.

Differentiating ‘dangerous’ from ‘careless’ or ‘inconsiderate’

Death by dangerous driving is not to be confused with careless or inconsiderate driving. As opposed to dangerous driving, death by careless driving is defined as driving at a standard that is ‘below’ that of a sensible driver. This crime could be committed by driving too close to another vehicle, overtaking on the inside or driving through a red light by mistake. The penalty for careless or inconsiderate driving is significantly softer; up to five years in prison with a mandatory disqualification for a minimum of one year and a discretionary retest. That said, when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing death by careless driving can carry the same consequences as death by dangerous driving.

Determining factors when establishing the sentence

There are a number of details a judge will consider when determining the sentence for a death by dangerous driving offence, including:

  • The responsibility of the offender, such as dangerous driving whilst under the influence.
  • Other offences committed at the same time, such as driving a stolen vehicle.
  • Whether the offender was a close friend or relative of the victim.
  • The circumstances and history of the offender, such as any previous convictions and their character.

If you or someone you know has been accused of death by dangerous driving, it’s important to seek expert legal representation as soon as possible. Here at Noble Solicitors, we’re leading experts in Road Traffic Law, and our experienced and qualified team can fully prepare you to answer the allegation you face. You can learn more about us and how we can help you by calling 07000 81 82 83.

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