In 2013, Audrey Anne Dow tragically passed away from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident, that involved the collision of her vehicle with another, driven by a disqualified driver.
The Queensland Coroner held an inquest into Ms Dow’s death and found that a “middle ground” offence was necessary between the serious criminal offence of dangerous driving and the less serious traffic offence of driving without due care (commonly referred to as “careless driving”).
A person charged with dangerous driving can face actual imprisonment, irrespective of whether it is the person’s first offence. Dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment if no one is injured, or 10 years imprisonment if a person is injured or killed.
On the other hand, careless driving carries a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment. However, imprisonment is unlikely as it is typically not alleged that the offender acted in an intentional manner. Additionally, police can issue on-the-spot fines for careless driving.
In response to the Coroner’s findings, the Queensland Government introduced the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. The purpose of the amendment was to improve safety on Queensland roads by introducing harsher penalties for offences involving death or grievous bodily harm. Consequently, the new offence of aggravated careless driving came into force.
A driver will be liable for aggravated careless driving if it is proven the driver was driving carelessly and caused grievous bodily harm or the death of a person. The Police must firstly prove that the driver was driving:
Without due care and attention; or
Without reasonable consideration for the other person using the road.
Driving involves a positive obligation on each road user, and even though a person may not have significantly contributed to an accident, they can be found guilty on the basis that,
“the lack of due care and attention may not have amounted to negligence towards another person, but may have been a failure to exercise the degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would have exercised in looking after his own safety.”
The offence will then be aggravated if the Police also prove the driving caused grievous bodily harm or the death of a person.
The maximum penalty for this offence is 80 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment. In a recent District Court case it was held that a period of imprisonment for this offence may be wholly suspended. The driver’s license will also be disqualified for a minimum of 6 months. If, in addition to causing grievous bodily harm or death, the driver was unlicensed, the penalty then doubles to a maximum of 160 penalty units or two years imprisonment.
Creevey Russell Lawyers recently represented a client on an aggravated careless driving charge. We thoroughly investigated the brief of evidence and explained to the Court there was limited negligence by our client, and instead a failure to exercise the requisite degree of care, which resulted in the catastrophic incident. The Magistrate held that our client’s actions were not intentional, and in some ways unavoidable. Our client received a fine and was disqualified from driving for the minimum period, with no conviction recorded.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a driving offence, please contact the Crime and Misconduct Team at Creevey Russell Lawyers as soon as possible.