Negligent Driving

‘Negligent Driving’ is an offence of failing to operate a motor vehicle in a manner that a prudent and reasonable operator would have done, in the same circumstances. The Court considers all the circumstances to include traffic conditions, road, and weather factors.

In NSW, the law says that negligent driving involves the potential for a driver to cause harm to others as being legally viewed as occasioned by the manner of driving.

There are three main charges of Negligent Driving:

  1. Negligent driving that does not occasion death or grievous bodily harm (GBH);
  2. Negligent driving that occasions GBH; and
  3. Negligent driving that occasions death.

The Road Transport Act 2013 (‘the Act’) describes the offences of negligent driving. Intent of the driver is irrelevant as the law considers the offence as one of severity of harm and liability.

In 2008, the test for negligent driving in NSW was confirmed in the case of Director of Public Prosecutions NSW v Yeo & Anor (2008) NSWSC 953. The law must show beyond reasonable doubt that the charged driver operated a motorised vehicle in a way that departs from the usual standard of care used by others on the road and is expected of a typical prudent operator (in the same circumstances).

1. “Negligent Driving” Charges in NSW

A person charged with negligent driving not occasioning death of GBH is less serious, and such offence may result in a traffic infringement notice. The charge may result from a minor vehicle crash, and in most cases, the officer issues an infringement notice to any and/or all vehicles in the accident. The recipient of the infringement notice receives 3 demerit points on his or her licence.

The two offences of negligent driving occasioning GBH and negligent driving occasioning death are extremely serious offences. Both offences carry maximum penalties of 9 months imprisonment and 18 months imprisonment respectively.  Unfortunately, these charges bring with them the potential of criminal conviction and/or licence termination along with additional penalties.

2. “Negligent Driving Occasioning GBH in NSW”

If you were recently involved in a vehicle accident in which another party was injured, you may be charged with negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm. The test of the law is the severity of the injury.

In NSW, grievous bodily harm means an extremely serious or severe injury. For instance, if the driver experienced a bruise or small cut in an accident, the injury would not be considered GBH. However, if the driver suffered a broken arm or leg, the injury would be considered GBH.

A driver charged with negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm usually receives a Court Attendance Notice a short time after the motor vehicle accident. The police must first gather evidence and investigate the accident. The notice may take weeks or even months to arrive but, nonetheless, it is important for the recipient to attend court as required:

  • It is possible for the charged individual to be arrested and/or held by police in some situations. If you are charged after an accident, it is vitally important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you are deemed guilty by the court, you will probably face fines of up to $1,100 (conviction of negligent driving simpliciter), lengthy licence disqualification, and a criminal conviction.
  • If you are convicted of the offence of negligent driving occasioning GBH, you also face an automatic (in the absence of a court order) immediate disqualification of your licence for 3 years. If a court order applies, the length of disqualification term is unlimited.
  • In some situations, the court may lessen the disqualification period to as little as 12 months, the minimum allowed by the law. A first conviction carries a maximum fine of $2,200. The maximum court-imposed fine for a second or third offence rises to $3,300.
  • Rarely, the Court may determine at its discretion to impose a non-conviction order under section 10. A recorded conviction can affect your future and, if you are concerned about it and/or the loss of driving privileges, it is essential to seek legal advice now.

3. “Negligent Driving Occasioning Death” in NSW

A vehicular accident occasioning death is obviously an extremely serious matter. If the accused driver is found negligent of driving occasioning death, the Court is likely to evaluate some manner of imprisonment as part of the penalty. The Court takes into account the driver’s degree of negligence and, as stated above, the standard to meet bar is low.

If charged with this serious offence, it is critical to seek legal counsel and engage experienced representation as soon as possible.

Penalties for the charge of negligent driving occasioning death include:

  • For a first offence, the maximum fine is $3,300 and/or 18 months imprisonment. There is also an Automatic Disqualification of 3 years (which may be reduced to a period not less than 12 months).
  • For a second or subsequent offence within 5 years, the maximum fine is $5,500 and/or 2 years imprisonment. There is also an Automatic Disqualification of 5 years (which may be reduced to a period not less than 2 years).

Charges and Penalties for Negligent Driving in NSW

As discussed earlier, NSW considers 3 levels of negligent driving offences. The police may charge the driver with negligent driving, negligent driving occasioning GBH, and negligent driving occasioning death with the latter being most serious.

The law directs the court to assess the driver’s degree of negligence when operating a vehicle. It also considers the type and/or injuries the victim sustained as the result of another driver’s negligence.

Not all lawyers understand the law and negligent driving charges:

  • An experienced NSW traffic lawyer will analyse the case and discuss expected penalties if pleading guilty.
  • The experienced traffic law firm can discuss defence of the charge. It is also possible to argue for a reduced charge in the commission of a lesser offence.

As you now understand, traffic offences in NSW are serious matters. It is essential to seek experienced legal advice right away. Even if you have not received any notification of penalties, charges, or licence suspension, you must act to protect your legal rights.

If you or a loved one has been charged with any type of negligent driving, or you have concerns about being charged with negligent driving in NSW in the future, contact Benjamin & Leonardo Criminal Defence Lawyers on (02) 9283 3033.