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Cars and Motoring

Owning a car can be an expensive business, but for many of us, it is necessary for going about our daily lives. This section can tell you all you need to know about the law for buying, selling, and owning a car.

Dangerous driving is defined in law as: 

  • Driving that falls far below the standard of a competent and careful driver; and
  • Driving that would obviously seem dangerous to a competent and careful driver.

A driver can also be accused of dangerous driving if the vehicle itself is in a dangerous condition, regardless of how competent the driver’s driving was. A vehicle can be described as “dangerous” in this context if it causes or is likely to cause serious property damage or injury to any person – for example, if a car does not have working brakes, it would be considered too dangerous to be on the road.

Being charged with dangerous driving

If you are to be prosecuted for dangerous driving you will need to be issued with a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) unless the charge arises out of an accident. The charge is an “either way” offence, which means it can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. If you are taken to court, the punishment could be as follows:

  • Magistrates’ Court – Maximum 6 months prison sentence, £5,000 fine and disqualification from driving
  • Crown Court – Maximum 2 years prison sentence, unlimited fine, mandatory disqualification and an extended driving test to regain your licence

Dangerous driving defences

Possible defences for a dangerous driving charge include:

  • You dispute that your driving was below the standard of the careful and competent motorist. Even if successful, this defence may not prevent a conviction for the lesser offence of driving without due care and attention, which is an alternative verdict to dangerous driving.
  • Necessity/Duress: there was pressure upon you that forced you to drive dangerously – usually fleeing from the threat of violence or an actual assault.
  • A previously undiscovered mechanical fault caused you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • You were suddenly deprived of control of your vehicle by sudden illness and/or a medical condition (e.g. sudden coma, epileptic fit). Bear in mind that loss of control through a known pre-existing condition will not usually provide a defence, and may in fact make matters worse.
  • You were taking part in an authorised motoring event.

Different dangerous driving offences

Aiding, causing or inciting dangerous driving

If your actions in some way resulted in another individual committing a dangerous driving offence, you may also be charged with a dangerous driving offence.

Offences of this nature fall into three separate categories:

  • Aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring dangerous driving
  • Causing or permitting dangerous driving
  • Inciting dangerous driving

The punishments available for causing one of these offences are often equal to the penalties you would receive if you had committed the offence yourself – for example, an individual charged with causing dangerous driving could receive the same or similar punishment as someone who actually commits dangerous driving.

For more information, visit our Motoring Penalty Codes and Points section.

Causing serious injury by dangerous driving

December 2012 saw the introduction of a new dangerous driving offence known as causing serious injury by dangerous driving. This offence was introduced to create a middle ground between the least and most serious dangerous driving offences – as such, causing serious injury by dangerous driving carries a more serious punishment than plain dangerous driving, but not as serious as causing death.

The maximum sentence for this offence is five years in prison – those convicted will also receive between 3-11 points on their licence. “Serious injury” is defined as physical harm which amounts to grievous bodily harm (GBH).

Wanton and furious driving

This is a rarely used charge – the full name of the charge is causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving. It is now generally used to prosecute offenders who have caused by bodily harm through driving in a way that other dangerous or careless driving offences would not apply – for example, if they were riding a bike, as “dangerous cycling” is not an offence under UK law. Causing bodily harm with a horse-drawn carriage or when driving a vehicle on a private road could also qualify. 

A charge of wanton and furious driving can result in an unlimited fine, and up to 2 years in prison.


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