Negligent Driving - Armstrong Legal Canberra

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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Negligent Driving


Under section 6 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 it is an offence in the ACT to drive a motor vehicle negligently on a road or a road related area. There is a low threshold for proving negligent driving and it requires a subjective judgment. The court must take into account the nature, condition and use of the area, as well as the amount of traffic that would be expected to be in that area at that time.

Negligent driving charges

There are 3 charges of negligent driving:

  1. Negligent driving not occasioning death or grievous bodily harm;
  2. Negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm;
  3. Negligent driving occasioning death.

Negligent driving

The first of these offences is usually dealt with by way of a traffic infringement notice. As an example, the infringement may be issued in response to a minor crash to any or all of the vehicles involved. A wide range of conduct can result in a charge of negligent driving.

Negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident where someone has been injured you may be at risk of being charged with negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm. The seriousness of any injury suffered will determine whether you will be charged under this section.

Grievous bodily harm is defined by the court to mean a really serious injury. A minor cut or bruise would not be considered grievous bodily harm. A broken bone or severe burn may constitute grievous bodily harm.

If you are found guilty of this offence, the court will record a conviction, impose a fine and a disqualification period. The maximum fine, if you are convicted, is 100 penalty units. The court also has the option to impose a term of imprisonment up to one year.

If this is an offender’s first offence, the automatic period of disqualification is three months. If it is a repeat offence, the automatic period of disqualification is 12 months. However, the court has the discretion to impose a longer ban.

Regardless of how bad your traffic record is, the court has discretion whether or not to record a conviction. If the court decides not to record a conviction, you will not be disqualified from driving. Section 17 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 allows a court that finds a person guilty of an offence the discretion not to impose a conviction.

Negligent driving occasioning death

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident that caused the death of another person, you are at risk of being charged with this offence. This is a serious charge and it is imperative that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after the accident, even before you are charged.

If you are found guilty of this offence, the starting point is for the court to record a conviction, and impose a fine and a disqualification period. The maximum fine if you are convicted is 200 penalty units ($32,000). The court also has the option to impose a term of imprisonment up to two years.

If this is a first offence, the automatic period of disqualification is three months. If this is a repeat offence, the automatic period of disqualification is 12 months but the court can  impose a longer ban.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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