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Offences Involving Death

Offences Involving Death


(Death by dangerous driving, death by careless driving, causing death by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing death by careless driving and causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers)




It is a motorist’s worst nightmare for someone to lose their life as a possible consequence of their driving . In addition to having to deal with the fact that someone has tragically died you must also prepare yourself for significant penalties that reflect the severity of the offence.


We appreciate that the potential penalty may be what brought you to this page so a summary of the maximum penalties the court can impose are:


Maximum Penalties


  • Death by dangerous driving Life imprisonment
  • Death by careless (drink/drug) Life Imprisonment
  • Death by careless driving 5 years imprisonment
  • Death by driving (unlicenced, uninsured or disqualified) 5 years imprisonment


Disqualification of at least 12 months is mandatory in all cases and most offenders will be ordered to take an extended re-test before being their licence is reinstated.




We would recommend that you read the relevant pages on this website relating to the offence you are charged with as the information contained on those pages will be relevant to your charge and outlined your options (i.e. dangerous driving, our alcohol and drug-related pages, no insurance, no licence or disqualified drivers)


This page is intended to help you understand the position you are in and how the courts approach these cases to better prepare you for the proceedings ahead.


The Crown Prosecution Service Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving broadly outlines the approach for how they will deal with cases when considering what charge is appropriate based on an assessment of the motorist standard of driving.


Whilst considering this information it is worth noting how dangerous driving and careless driving are defined in law as out of the offences listed above, these are the terms that need clarification and below are the definitions as provided by the Road Traffic Act 1988.


Dangerous Driving


A person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if the standard of driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous




  • Aggressive driving (sudden lane changes or cutting in)
  • Racing or competitive driving on public roads
  • Speed that is highly inappropriate for the road-type
  • Deliberate disregard of traffic signals
  • Driving a vehicle knowing it has a defect that would be considered dangerous
  • Driving when too tired to stay awake


Careless Driving


Careless driving is driving that falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and a person is to be regarded as driving without reasonable consideration for other persons only if those persons are inconvenienced by his driving.


Examples are as follows:


  • Overtaking on the inside of driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
  • Inadvertent mistakes (driving through a red light or coming out of a side road into the path of another vehicle)
  • Minimal distractions such as tuning a radio or operating satellite navigation


Inconsiderate Driving


  • Flashing lights at other drivers to make them give way
  • Misusing lanes to avoid a queue of traffic or gain some other advantage over other motorists
  • Driving that inconveniences other road users or causes an unnecessary hazard. This can be remaining in a lane intended for overtaking, driving unnecessarily too slow, driving with dazzling headlights or even splashing a pedestrian with a puddle)


The most significant harm done by the offences listed is clearly the death of another person(s) and this is a huge element to the offence. The culpability of the offender (how much they are responsible for their actions) is the primary factor that determines the starting point for sentencing. For each of these offences (except causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers) the focus should be an evaluation of the standard of driving involved and the degree of danger that it foreseeably created.


The guidelines draw an important distinction between factors that are intrinsic to the standard of driving (referred to as “determinants of seriousness”) and those which are not, even though they may aggravate the overall offence. The overall outcome will be determined by the number of aggravating factors and how serious each of them is. As such, the same outcome could result from the presence of one particularly bad aggravating factor or two or more less serious factors.


Call Duncan Lewis motoring offence specialists on 020 7923 4020 for expert legal advice on all motoring law offences, including those charges involving death.

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