In New South Wales, it is an offence to drive in a manner, pace or speed, which causes danger to a person or other road users. This is known as ‘furious driving’ and is similar to offences relating to dangerous driving and driving at a dangerous speed.
A person can be charged with this offence if they drive their vehicle in a way that creates a risk to other road users. The manner in which they drive the vehicle may become furious due to the speed at which they drive or the way in which they manoeuvre the car, such as swerving or driving into or near other motorists or pedestrians.
Crimes Act or Road Transport Act?
There are two very similar offences which relate to furious driving, one in the Crimes Act 1900 and one in the Road Transport Act 2013. Police more commonly charge a person under the Road Transport Act 2013.
Under the Crimes Act 1900, the maximum penalty for this offence is two years imprisonment. This offence also requires a person to have been injured by the furious driving.
Under the Road Transport Act 2013 the maximum penalty for a first offence is 9 months imprisonment and/or 20 penalty units (which is currently equivalent to a fine of $2,200). There is also an automatic period of disqualification of 3 years with a minimum period of disqualification of 12 months.
If the offence is classified as a second offence, the maximum penalty is higher. An offence is classified as a second offence if the person has been convicted of a major traffic offence (such as a drink driving offence or drive while suspended offence) within the previous five years. The maximum penalty for a second offence is 12 months imprisonment and/or 30 penalty units. There is also an automatic period of disqualification of 5 years with a minimum period of disqualification of 2 years.
The offence of Furious Driving under the Crimes Act
The traditional offence of furious driving is contained in s 53 of the Crimes Act 1900 and states:
Whosoever, being at the time on horseback, or in charge of any carriage or other vehicle, by wanton or furious riding, or driving, or racing, or other misconduct, or by wilful neglect, does or causes to be done to any person any bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.
An alternate offence of Furious Driving is contained in s 117(2) of the Road Transport Act 2013 and states:
(2) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road furiously, recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public.
Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units or imprisonment for 9 months or both (in the case of a first offence) or 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months or both (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).
What actions might constitute furious driving
Examples of furious driving include:
- Driving your car around in circles with someone on the bonnet who flies off and is injured;
- Speeding 50km/h in excess of the posted speed limit;
- Breaking sharply before accelerating, speeding and swerving all over the road;
What the police must prove
For a court to find a person guilty of furious driving, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt:
- That they were driving a car; and
- That they were doing so in a way which was furious, reckless or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public.
- In respect of the offence under the Crimes Act 1900, the police must also prove that they caused bodily harm to a person.
Possible defences for Furious Driving
A person may defend a charge of furious driving by arguing that:
- They were not driving the car;
- The way they were driving the vehicle was not furious or reckless;
- In respect of the offence under the Crimes Act 1900, to argue that they did not cause bodily harm.
The offence under the Crimes Act 1900 is a Table 1 offence which means the offence will be finalised in the Local Court unless the prosecution or person charged elects to have the matter finalised in the District Court.
The offence under the Road Transport Act 2013 is a Summary Offence which means that it must be finalised in the Local Court.
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