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Driving offences involving death

The main types of driving offences involving fatalities are 'dangerous' driving and 'careless or inconsiderate' driving. The driver's behaviour is what is important, not what the driver believes. Someone may be committing a dangerous driving offence even though they believe they are driving safely.

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CPS publishes policy on bad driving

20/12/2007

A better service to bereaved families from prosecutors and new guidance on what constitutes dangerous driving are the main changes in the Crown Prosecution Service policy on bad driving published today.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, said: "Through our consultation execise, the public made it very clear that they want our prosecutors to explain to bereaved families why they have made a decision to charge a particular offence. Our revised policy gives full details of the victim and witness care service that we provide, and explains the Victim Focus scheme rolled out in October 2007, where a prosecutor will meet those who have lost a close family member through bad driving.

"The revised policy also responds to public concern about the dangers of driving while using a mobile phone and this means that a charge of dangerous driving will now be the starting point for this offence, where there is clear evidence that danger has been caused by its use."

Sir Ken said there was now more detailed guidance for prosecutors on when it is appropriate to charge manslaughter instead of a lesser offence so that the correct charge is chosen from the start.

The issue of whether a driving fatality should result in a charge of manslaughter prompted the widest range of views. Comments varied from 'all motoring deaths should be charged as manslaughter' to those who believed that this would devalue the charge and that 'it should only be used in the most serious cases'.

Sir Ken said: "Clearly we are not going to satisfy both of these viewpoints at the same time. But I think it is right that prosecutors are given new guidance so that where the individual cases warrant it, then a manslaughter charge is selected."

The revised policy sets out examples of what is likely to be regarded as dangerous, careless or inconsiderate driving.

Dangerous driving could include:

  • racing or competitive driving;
  • disregarding warnings from fellow passengers;
  • reading a newspaper/map;
  • aggressive driving, such as sudden lane changes, cutting into a line of vehicles, or driving much too close to the vehicle in front;

Careless driving could include:

  • driving inappropriately close to another vehicle;
  • tuning a car radio;
  • selecting and lighting a cigarette or similar where the driver was avoidably distracted by that use.

Inconsiderate driving could include:

  • flashing of lights to force other drivers in front to give way;
  • unnecessarily remaining in an overtaking lane;
  • driving with un-dipped headlights which dazzle oncoming drivers;
  • driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed;
  • driving a bus in such a way as to alarm passengers.

Sir Ken said: "We want to make sure our prosecutors reach the correct charging decisions not only in line with current law, but also, where it is just and lawful to do so, that they take into account changing public attitudes to bad driving and the desire of victims or their families and friends to see that justice is done."

  1. The roll out of the Victim Focus scheme was announced by the Attorney General, Baronness Scotland, on 1 October 2007. Under the new scheme prosecutors will offer to meet bereaved families after charge in certain cases to explain processes and procedures, including the making of a victim personal statement. Cases include murder, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter, familial homicide, causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink or drugs, aggravated vehicle taking where death is caused (where case is heard in the Crown Court).
  2. The CPS Policy on Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving is on this website.
  3. A summary of the responses is on this website in the Consultations section - Prosecuting bad driving - A consultation on CPS Prosecution Policy and Practice - Response to consultation. The summary was published in September 2007 and followed the publication of the CPS consultation paper "Prosecuting Bad Driving" in December 2006.
  4. For further information contact CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8180.