Changes to Dangerous Driving Laws Lack Clarity

Legislation in Queensland which has created a new traffic offence of ‘driving without due care and attention and causing death or grievous bodily harm’ is a positive step but still lacks clarity in its interpretation, says leading legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers.

Creevey Russell Criminal Law Team Leader Trent Jones said the new offence effectively brings Queensland legislation into closer alignment with laws in other states, and attracts a maximum penalty of approximately $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment, as well as a minimum license disqualification of six months.

“While the introduction of the new charge is a positive step, further clarification should have been provided as to how the law ought to be interpreted, as the distinction between what constitutes ‘dangerous operation’ and ‘careless driving’ is often vague,” Mr Jones said.

“The Courts have previously said that it is the manner of driving, rather than the resultant outcome of an incident that ought to be considered in determining whether or not the driving is ‘dangerous’ in the circumstances. It is one of the vague aspects of criminal law. Quite often you are left with a scenario where the charge preferred against an individual comes down to how the investigating officer interprets the facts and what they consider the most appropriate charge. This can change from matter to matter, depending on the officer.”

Mr Jones said in some circumstances, it is evident the most appropriate charge is a dangerous operation of a motor vehicle offence, but in other instances, the law is not so clear. In circumstances where you can point to a contributory factor, such as intoxication, speeding, or texting, in my view, an argument can be mounted by prosecutions to say that the manner of driving is dangerous in the circumstances,” he said.

“On other occasions, however, once you have considered all of the evidence, it is difficult to identify any aspect of the manner of driving that is dangerous. I have had clients where, after you look at all the evidence, it is difficult to identify how they did anything wrong. The client is travelling under the speed limit; the client is checking their mirrors and road positioning; they’re not distracted or intoxicated, and they are doing everything you would expect a prudent driver to do, but for whatever reason, a fatal traffic incident occurs, and those individuals are then at the hands of an investigating officer to determine whether or not they face a traffic offence or a criminal charge, which, if convicted of dangerous operation causing death, would likely result in a term of imprisonment.”

Mr Jones said the amended traffic laws would have been better improved by providing clarification of what is ‘dangerous’ compared with what is ‘careless’, rather than focusing on the outcome. “Once you can identify if something is careless or dangerous, it is then easy to work out what the appropriate charge is by then looking at the resultant outcome,” he said.

If you are involved in a traffic incident, no matter how minor or serious the offence may initially seem, call Creevey Russell Lawyers on 1800 CrimeLaw (1800 2746 3529).