Driving is an important part of adult life, and something we can occasionally take for granted. It is such a normal part of our lives that we often feel very safe behind the wheel. However, driving offences are the most common criminal offence in Australia, making up 34% of all offences during 2019 and 2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The road is a dangerous place, and accidents can happen.
One of the most serious traffic offences is negligent, furious or reckless driving, which has three subcategories depending on the scenario: negligent driving, negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, and negligent driving occasioning death. All three carry different penalties with varying degrees of severity.
What is Negligent Driving?
Negligent driving is the offence of driving in a manner which does not adhere to reasonable safety standards, care or attention expected of a responsible driver, and which has the potential to put the driver, or the general public, at risk of serious injury or death.
Charges of negligent driving offences will normally be levelled against someone if there is some kind of collision for which they are responsible, and there is some level of proof that they were operating their vehicle in an irresponsible manner. Examples of negligent driving include:
- Failing to keep a lookout
- Not driving defensively resulting in a collision
- Endangering others by not paying due care or attention to road rules or conditions (rain, snow, school times, etc)
- Not indicating or staying in your lane
- Generally failing to abide by road rules.
What is Negligent Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm or Death?
Negligent driving occasioning GBH (grievous bodily harm) or death are serious indictable offences which can incur very serious penalties.
When negligent driving leads to the harm or death of others, it is called negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or negligent harm occasioning death. Grievous bodily harm (GBH) refers to any permanent or serious injury or disfigurement, which includes burns, scarring, broken bones or internal organ damage, as well as the damage or destruction of a foetus (if a pregnant woman loses her baby, or it is harmed as a result of the car accident).
What is the charge of negligent driving?
Negligent driving can be hard to define. Generally, negligent driving is failing to drive at a standard that an ordinary prudent driver would. You can be charged with this offence if you:
- Drove a motor vehicle on a road or road related area; and
- Drove the vehicle negligently, causing a collision, a person to suffer grievous bodily harm/death
It can be quite difficult for the prosecution to prove who was at fault in the accident, or whether you were driving negligently, as the evidence is usually circumstantial. Our lawyers often use the services of crash investigation experts to analyse the scene of the accident and perhaps assist our client in their defence against these charges.
Negligent Driving Legislation
- A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road negligently
- A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road furiously, recklessly or at a speed in a manner dangerous to the public
What are the Penalties for Negligent Driving?
Negligent driving is not a simple charge, because there are many factors that go into it. The seriousness of the charge will depend on the circumstances, the evidence and whether anyone was injured or killed.
As such, there are three distinct penalties for negligent driving which differ based upon the severity of damage to victims and whether it is a first offence or a repeated pattern of behaviour.
In NSW, the maximum penalty for negligent driving not occasioning death or grievous bodily harm is 10 penalty units, which equates to $1100.
In the case of a first-timer being charged with driving furiously, recklessly or in a manner dangerous to the public, the maximum penalty is $2200 or imprisonment for 9 months, or both.
Negligent Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm
When negligent driving results in the injury of a third-party, the charges are upgraded to negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
The charge of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm entails a maximum fine of $2200.00 or imprisonment for 9 months or both (for a first offence).
The mandatory period of disqualification is 12 months, unless the court decides to deal with the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, in which case you will not be disqualified from driving. To find out more about a section 10, click here.
For a second or subsequent offence, the maximum penalty is a fine of $3300.00 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.
The mandatory period of disqualification is 12 months, unless the court decides to deal with the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, in which case you will not be disqualified from driving.
Depending on your traffic record, the likely penalties can range from a section 10 to a period of full time imprisonment.
Negligent Driving Occasioning Death
This is a scenario that no-one ever wishes to find themselves in, but it is still important to be aware of the legal consequences of negligent driving occasioning death.
The maximum penalty for the offence of negligent driving causing death is a fine of $3300.00 or imprisonment for 18 months or both (for a first offence).
The minimum period of disqualification is 12 months, unless the court decides to deal with the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, in which case you will not be disqualified from driving.
For a second or subsequent offence the maximum penalty is a fine of $5500.00, imprisonment for 2 years, or both.
The minimum period of disqualification is 2 years, unless the court decides to deal with the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, in which case you will not be disqualified from driving.
Generally, penalties that a court can impose for any criminal offence in NSW are:
- 10 – No conviction recorded
- Section 9 – Good behaviour bond
- Community service order
- Section 12 – Suspended sentence
- Intensive correction order
- Home detention
- Prison sentence
Negligent Driving Case Studies
LY Lawyers has over 50 years of combined experience, with top criminal lawyers who specialise in the full spectrum of criminal driving, including negligent driving cases.
It is important to know that not all accidents are caused by negligent driving. Examples where a collision or accident may not be negligent driving include:
- Circumstances where an accident was unavoidable.
- If the accident was caused by a mechanical issue or equipment failure that you did not know about.
- A situation where you became unconscious resulting from a condition you had no control of and were not previously aware of.
Our track record of success in criminal cases throughout Australia is proven. Take a look at our case studies below for just a few examples of the success we have achieved for our clients.