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Causing serious injury by dangerous driving

Causing serious injury by dangerous driving is one of several serious motoring offences you may be charged with and require detailed consideration of the facts and law in order to challenge effectively.

What is the law in relation to causing serious injury by dangerous driving?

Section 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

A person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

Serious injury is defined as grievous bodily harm, a wide reaching term which can include broken bones, substantial cuts and bruises and can even cover psychiatric injury.

Section 2A then defines “dangerous driving”:

A person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if—

(a) the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

A person may also be considered to be driving dangerously if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous. Under this definition, there may be no issue with the standard of driving itself but if the car was in a dangerous condition or state of disrepair then you may fall foul of the offence, for example if you were driving with worn, un-roadworthy tyres.

A separate test for dangerous driving applies to “designated persons”, such as police officers whose standard of driving will be compared against other officers who have completed prescribed driving training.

What constitutes dangerous driving?

The Crown must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the standard of driving was dangerous in accordance with section 2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 as outlined above.

This is not always an easy task, as it can be a fine line between what could be considered careless driving as opposed to dangerous. The below are some examples of what would more likely to be considered dangerous:

  • Police chases (no matter the length or speed involved, a police chase is considered to be inherently dangerous in any circumstance);
  • Racing or competitive driving with another vehicle;
  • Driving significantly in excess of the speed limit;
  • Driving knowing the vehicle has a dangerous defect
  • Using a mobile phone whilst driving.

This is not an exhaustive list and each case will be decided on its own facts.

Causing serious injury

The prosecution must show a causal link between the dangerous driving as alleged, and the serious injury. Failure to do so means that the case would likely fail, or the suspect may be charged with dangerous driving in isolation.

Defences to causing serious injury by dangerous driving

The Crown must prove each element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

If the standard of driving cannot be proved as dangerous then the case would fail, or it may be that an alternative charge of causing serious injury by careless driving may be put forward. This is a relatively new offence, which came into force on 28 June 2022 to fill the gaps in cases where the standard of driving fell short of being dangerous but where serious injury was caused.

In some cases, a charge of causing serious injury by careless driving may be preferably negotiated as the sentencing powers of the court would be much lower.

It is also important to assess whether another road user may be at fault, or there is no causal link between the standard of driving and injury caused. This requires collision and medical expert evidence to prove.

Sentencing offences of causing seriously injury by dangerous driving

New sentencing guidelines came into force, effective from 1 July 2023.

If the case is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court in isolation, the maximum penalty is 6 months’ imprisonment.

If the case is serious enough to be dealt with in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is 5 years’ custody.

A mandatory disqualification must be imposed, being a minimum of 2 years’ with a compulsory extended re-test.

In determining the length of the sentence, the court will have regard to the level of dangerousness involved in respect of the manner of driving. The court will also have regard to the level of harm, the most serious penalties being reserved for cases in which a particularly grave or life threatening injury is caused, life-long treatment may be required or a permanent injury or condition is found which has a substantial and long term impact on day to day activities.


At Olliers we are able to assist you on cases of this nature on a legally aided or private funded basis. You may also have an insurance policy (motor/home) which includes legal expenses which could be an alternative source of funding. Many insurers suggest their own panel of solicitors however, under the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations Act 1990, policyholders have the freedom to choose their own legal representation.

We are able to liaise and negotiate with your insurers on your behalf as to the possibility that your case could be insurer-funded.

How Olliers can help

At Olliers, we have an experienced team available to assist you if you find yourself charged with this offence. Given the potential complexities and ramifications of sentence/conviction, it is important you obtain representation as soon as possible in order to ensure you are in the best possible position for court.

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