Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer Number: 777
Dangerous driving, criminal negligence, and careless drivingRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 777
What is considered dangerous driving?
Dangerous driving means driving in a way that endangers other people, and it is a serious criminal offence under section 320.13 of the Canadian Criminal Code.
The only requirement to be charged with dangerous driving is that a driver operated a motor vehicle with reckless disregard for public safety, so that there was a danger to the public who were either present or who might have been expected to be present. Therefore, it is not necessary that other people were actually present for a driver to be charged with dangerous driving.
To determine whether someone should be charged, the police will consider all the circumstances of the situation, including:
- the way the driver drove, such as speeding or weaving in and out of traffic, or following too closely to the car ahead,
- the nature and condition of the place where the offence took place, and
- the traffic in the area.
If the police lay a charge following an accident, it will likely be for dangerous driving, criminal negligence, or careless driving.
Like dangerous driving, criminal negligence is also an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Under section 219 (1), an individual is criminally negligent who, (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.
Penalties for dangerous driving and criminal negligence
Dangerous driving is a hybrid offence. If convicted on indictment (more serious), the driver could face imprisonment up-to 10 years; or, if convicted on summary conviction, the maximum jail time is up-to two years less a day.
If you are convicted of dangerous driving that causes bodily harm, the minimum penalty is:
- for a first offence, a fine of $1,000,
- for a second offence, imprisonment for a term of 30 days, and
- for each subsequent offence, imprisonment for a term of 120 days.
If convicted, the driver may also face:
- a jail term of not more than two years less a day if the offence is punishable on summary conviction (less serious), or
- imprisonment for a term of up-to 14 years, if the Crown prosecutor decides to proceed by indictment (more serious)
If someone is convicted of dangerous driving that causes the death (which is a strictly indictable offence), the minimum penalties are the same as for dangerous driving causing bodily harm, but the maximum jail term is for life.
Licence suspension: Under section 320.24 (4) of the Criminal Code, if convicted of dangerous driving, in addition to any other punishment, the Court may order a licence suspension.
The offence of causing bodily harm by criminal negligence is punishable by a maximum jail term of up-to 10 years. If someone is killed, then the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.
Licence suspension under the Highway Traffic Act
If you are convicted of dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing death under the Criminal Code, your licence will be suspended under the rules of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. You will receive:
- a one-year licence suspension for the first time you are convicted, and
- the length of time increases substantially, up-to a lifetime ban, for subsequent convictions.
Convictions for driving offences under the Criminal Code will remain on your driver’s record for a minimum of 10 years.
The offence of careless driving is committed when a driver drives without reasonable care or attention to other drivers.
The offence of careless driving causing bodily harm or death is committed when a driver drives without reasonable care or attention to other drivers and causes bodily harm or death to any person.
Neither of these two offences is a criminal offence. They are offences under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. If convicted, the penalties for careless driving and careless driving causing bodily harm or death can include:
- jail time,
- licence suspension, and
- demerit points on your licence.
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