It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle dangerously. Dangerous driving is defined by the Road Traffic Act as driving which falls far below that of a reasonable and competent driver and where it should be obvious that driving in that fashion would be dangerous.
The test is an objective one – and “dangerous” can include the risk of damage to property as well as injury. Whether the standard of driving falls “far below” that expected of a competent driver is for a court to determine. The term is unfortunately imprecise but may include racing, particularly aggressive or intimidating driving or driving with a load that was self evidently precarious.
It is a separate offence to cause death by dangerous driving.
The offence does not require a deliberate intention and effectively imposes harsh criminal consequences upon negligent behaviour. The court’s powers of sentence for dangerous driving are a maximum of 2 years imprisonment for dangerous driving and up to 10 years available at the court’s discretion for causing death by dangerous driving. Disqualification from driving is mandatory in the absence of special reasons – see separate briefing note.
The new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving came into force on 3rd December 2013 and carries a sentence of up to 5 years in the Crown Court. An extended disqualification from driving for 2 years and an extended driving test are also mandatory requirements.